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The Ethical Side of Nursing Research

Although nursing research and nursing practice influence each other and co-exist, they are not the same entity. The difference between the two areas was outlined in 1979 by the National Commission for the Protection of human Subjects of Biomedical and Behavioral Research or the Belmont Commission. The commission mentioned that the design of nursing practice is geared towards the improvement of a person’s well-being with the application of several interventions. Nursing practice will offer diagnosis, preventive treatment or therapy to patients. Moreover, the Belmont Commission stated that research, in contrast to practice, is geared towards testing a hypothesis, drawing conclusions, and generally contributing to the acquisition of knowledge. Research activities are continuous. They involve Continuous Quality Improvement and clinical trials at random.

The most important provision in nursing research refers to the ethical principles governing human subjects. The three ethical principles are: autonomy, beneficence, and justice. To explain further, autonomy refers to self-determination and informed consent. Before research can be conducted on an individual, he must be informed and must be given the right to choose whether or not he will participate or withdraw from a research study. Autonomy recognizes the basic principle of respect for a human being. Would-be participants of a research study must be told of the risks involved. Autonomy is usually reduced in instances where the participant is a child or is unconscious. In which case, the participants are given the right to safeguards. Next of kin, a health care surrogate, or a guardian could act as safeguard for the participant. Beneficence is the principle that guides health care assistants and providers.

The principle has its foundation on health care moral advocacy. Beneficence provides maximum benefits and protection from harm. In order to follow this principle before a research, there is a thorough and fair analysis of known risks and benefits of the research. If consent is given, there should also be monitoring of a person’s response during the course of the study. The last principle is the principle of justice. It mandates that every participant should not have been coerced to join a research study. Also, it provides that the subjects of the research exclude those persons who are with severe mental or physical illness. Persons who are economically and educationally at a disadvantage are also covered in this principle. All subjects must be selected that only from the group listed above. They must come from a broad population, of various societies, gender, socioeconomic status, age, and ethnicity.

Now, if a nurse or any health care giver has an ethical conflict with a certain research, he has no moral obligation to see through the procedures of the experiment. The nurse in question must bring his concerns to the others’ attention, specifically to those persons involved in assisting the patient and reviewing the suitability of the research. There may be a personal consequence of reporting, but failure to communicate perceived ethical injustice violates the ethical principles of the nurse and the profession. The last one is so much more difficult to ignore than the first.

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