Ethics in Research

Essay by pinksation3University, Master's July 2006

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Understanding the ethical principles and guidelines that influence research is imperative for every researcher and professional working in healthcare. In order to achieve this understanding, one must first determine the meaning of ethics, and how it applies to one's discipline. The following will address the essentials of research ethics and how these essentials apply to quantitative and qualitative research studies.

Research ethics are defined by Aita and Richer (2005) as "the moral problems encountered in connection with scientific or other academic research, by the researcher, their subjects or their social environment". A primary role of the healthcare professional is to make decisions that hold he/she accountable to their profession and society, as well as, to patients and families. A major component of research ethics is ethical theory. Aita and Richer (2005) define ethical theory as "the study of the nature and justification of general ethical principles that can be applied to moral problems, and attempts to provide a more rigorous and systematic approach to how decisions are made".

Our society takes two approaches to ethical, or moral, theory: teleological and deontological.

Teleological theory, often referred to as utilitarianism, is the judgment of whether the consequences of an action are good or bad. This approach also evaluates the balance between the benefits and risks to the people associated with an action. Deontological ethical theory judges if the nature of this action is right or wrong despite any consequences the action might have on the person. Aside from the two primary philosophical approaches mentioned previously, the approach of ethical relativism must be explored. Ethical relativism is essential in today's healthcare as it deters the generalization of all humans and relates ethical principles to a specific culture or cultural belief. These definitions assist in the understanding the framework upon which ethical research is...