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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 step 2.4 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 Organization has developed a universal standard, which you can find on the WHO website, but there are also local standards and guidelines which vary a little across the world.

In the UK, most National Health Service 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.

Your task

Follow the link and take a few minutes to read through the WHO ethical guidelines.

Investigate how these are applied in your own locality and share any relevant links.

This will be useful because in the next step you’ll be encouraged to share your thoughts on your own ethical principles and receive feedback in a peer review activity.

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This article is from the free online course:

Healthcare Research: For Healthcare Professionals

Coventry University

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