Ethics and Rights of Research Participants

In every kind of research, research participants play greater roles and are exposed to greater risks which vary depending on their fields. It is in this context that different learning and research institutions, especially in the medical and nursing fields impose strict ethical guidance for the protection and guidance of the research participants. The essay discusses the fundamental rights that any research participant must enjoy. It also highlights the determination of the ethicality of, as well as the requirements of any given research.

According to Henning and Kelly (2008), research participants have their rights clearly stipulated on the Bill of rights, which include the right to information on; Why the research study is being done, What will happen during the research study, whether any study procedures, drugs, or devices are different from the standard medical care, the risks, side effects, discomforts from taking part in the study, the possible benefits from taking part in the study, and so on. The Bill of Rights provides that individuals involved in the research can choose not to take part in the proposed study or even to terminate their participation when the study has already started. Participants should be left to make informed decisions without any sort of pressure especially from the research. Those involved in the study have the right to ask as many questions as possible concerning the entire research process and should be furnished with a copy of the consent form once they decide to participate.

This Bill of rights is clearly supported by the American Psychological Association and may be classified into several principles (Polit & Beck, 2006). One of these principles provides for the right to voluntary involvement in the study and no participant should be forced into or influenced in deciding whether to participate or not. The other important principle is that of ensuring that the decision by the participant to be involved in the study should be from an informed point of view. This happens when the person is aware of how the entire study will be conducted including the associated risks. It is at this point that the individual can sign the consent form. As far as the associated risks of the research are concerned, the prospective participants should not be subjected to any deliberate situation that result in any form of physical harm or psychological/emotional torture. Furthermore, the participants should enjoy the confidentiality principle to the latter. Any uniquely identifying information should remain a secret to only those who have direct access to the research details. Confidentiality is further enhanced by the requirement that all those involved in the research should be unspecified. This principle guarantees utmost privacy (Kimmel, 2007).

Despite the fact that there is a specific standard for rights of research participants, there is no one particular body that oversees the ethical issues of research in the United States. Every institution has its own Institutional Review Boards (IRBs) which are federally-mandated, locally-administered groups and are charged with evaluating human participant research (Kimmel, 2007). Various institutions are collaborating to enhance participant protection and ethical considerations with an aim of uplifting the credibility of research work in general. This framework provides an important new articulation of research ethics, though many pressing questions remain unanswered: ‘Who determines social values and scientific validity? and most importantly, who is seated at the table when such judgments are made?’ (Emanuel, Wendler & Grady, 2004).

Some of the basic requirements that must be met before the research starts include the permission from the IRB which is given once a researcher has written a proposal and approved by the supervisors. One should have developed the research tools which include the questionnaire, key informants, group discussion tools and observation checklists depending on one’s research method.


Emanuel, E., Wendler, D., & Grady, C. (2004). What makes clinical research in are developing countries ethical? The benchmarks of ethical research. Journal of Infectious Diseases, 189, 930–937.

Henning, J. E. & Kelly, J. L. (2008). Enhancing research participation. Taylor & Francis

Kimmel, A. J. (2007). Ethical issues in conducting research: basic and applied approaches (2nd ed). Wiley-Blackwell

Polit, D. F. & Beck, C. T. (2006). Essentials of nursing research: Methods, appraisal, and utilization (6th ed). Philadelphia: Lippincott, Williams & Wilkins

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