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Some ethical dilemmas are not so easy to solve. Or are they?

Spot the ethical dilemma

Despite our best planning, ethical dilemmas can sneak up on you. Reflect. Seek advice. Take action.

Read through each of the following scenarios (adapted from The Research Ethics Guidebook) and decide what you would do.

Scenario 1

A potential participant is very keen to be involved in your research. After a lengthy conversation, you’re convinced he would benefit greatly from the research. He is also perfect for your study. As part of your informed consent process, all participants must read through the information and sign the required paperwork. When he tells you he cannot read, you’re not sure what to do. Your colleague says it’s not a problem and proceeds to carefully read the entire document to him. The participant then agrees to sign the consent form.

Scenario 2

Your research involves video recording the interactions and discussions of a community parenting group over a period of a year. Each participant has signed the consent form to be recorded. A quarrel within the group leads to one couple withdrawing from the group, six months into your project. They also ask for all of their data to be destroyed. In destroying this data, you will lose all the footage you have recorded.

Scenario 3

A colleague needs to recruit participants for a control group in an experimental treatment study she is undertaking for children. The control group would not benefit directly from the study and some of the laboratory tests required are uncomfortable and painful. Your colleague is recruiting parents from a lower socioeconomic area of the community. You discover she is offering very generous incentive payments for parents’ consent to involve their children.

Your task

Select the comments link below and respond to at least one of the three scenarios. Identify what the problem is and discuss what you would do and why?

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This article is from the free online course:

Why Ethics Matter: Ethical Research

Griffith University