A nurse searching for medical records.

Ethics and guidelines

Before we get into the nuts and bolts of how our thinking translates into designing a research study, we also need to look at how to do this in an ethical way.

In the audio Examples of unethical practice you heard about some of the background to this, and why we can’t take it for granted that everyone thinks like us, as healthcare professionals, and wants to conduct themselves to the highest standards.

Healthcare professionals have always had an altruistic orientation, but much as we can’t assume that everyone thinks about the world in the same way as we do, we shouldn’t assume everyone else also works to the same standards.

The basic principles of biomedical ethics started with the Hippocratic Oath in Ancient Greece, and have been refined ever since. The World Health Organisation has developed a universal standard, which you can find on their website but there are also local standards and guidelines which vary a little across the world.

Your task

For this section take a few minutes to follow the link and read through the WHO guidelines.

In the UK, most NHS organisations will have local procedures overseen by Research Ethics Committees and there is a central system for ethical approval, the Integrated Research Application System.

In other parts of the world this will look different but the same underlying principles apply, for example in Australia similar terminology is used: Human research Ethics Committees

Investigate how these have been applied locally to your own area of practice.


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This article is from the free online course:

Healthcare Research: For Healthcare Professionals

Coventry University