Research Methods Class 4 – Ethics in Research 9/27/2012 9:34:00 AM
ETHICS IN RESEARCH
What is ethics?
- a branch of philosophy concerned with moral issues of “right” and “wrong”
- To behave “ethically” is to do what is morally right
Why do scientists need an ethical code of conduct?
- The Tuskegee syphilis study (1932): A treatment for syphilis was
deliberately withheld from patients. (wanted to see what would happen
- The Willowbrook hepatitis study (1956): Children with cog disabilities
deliberately infected with hepatitis.
- Medical experiments in German concentration camps during WW2.
(Researchers pushed the boundaries of what we know by immersing
prisoners in ice cold water. They shot prisoners with poisoned bullets,
injected them with gasoline, exposed them to infections/diseases…all said to
have been done for science.
The Nuremberg Trials (1946): 20 scientists charged with willing
participation in crimes against humanity (16 guilty, 7 hanged).
(e.g. chief surgeon at University of Berlin was one of the scientists)
o Trials ended after 140 days of testimony
PART 1: Ethical Codes of Conduct
A. The Nuremberg Code (1947; 10 principles)
- 1 principle: “the voluntary consent of the human subject is absolutely
- 6 principles focus on protecting subjects from physical and mental
- 3 principles emphasize that research must have a useful purpose and be
conducted by trained professionals.
B. Ethical Codes in Psychology
1. APA (1953): A code for clinical psychology.
APA (1973): A code for research psychology
APA (2010): Current version (see W&M) 2. CPA (1978…2000): Code for ethics for psychologists
3. Tri-Council policy statement on ethical conduct for research involving
humans (TCPS, 2010).
The three councils: CIHR (medical research), SSHRC (social sci and
humanities), NSERC (natural science and engineering)
o TCPS governs all research at Western (including honors
PART 2: Eight Principles of the TCPS
Principle 1: Respect for Human Dignity
Described as a “moral imperative”
Described as “The Cardinal Principle” on which all other principles
1. Don’t treat research participants as “objects” to be studied; treat them
with dignity and respect
2. Be concerned with their safety and welfare.
Principle 2: Respect for free and informed consent
1. Ps (participants for short) have a right to be informed about anything that
might influence their willingness to participate (purpose, procedures, and
2. Must explicitly consent (agree) to participate
- can withdraw their consent at any time w/o penalty (e.g. skipping
some questions uncomfortable to answer)
consent should be obtained in writing (see Labs)
3. Informed consent must be freely given:
voluntary (no “coercion”, “undue influence”)
avoid subtle forms of pressure (e.g. grades, large monetary
incentives; highly attractive benefits)
Principle 3: Respect for vulnerable persons (e.g. children, mentally
challenged persons, etc)
- obtain informed consent from legal guardians, - obtain assent from par