Mental health and the legal field are unified by their focus on moral and ethical issues. New regulations and laws have brought into focus matters of confidentiality, genuine consent, legal rights and rights to treatment especially in mental health. Ethical concerns on studies involving children pertain to those who are to make decisions on their behalf in case they are believed to be incapable of making decisions on their own. The concerns also address the question of protection against harmful actions while guaranteeing access to value of the research. Obtaining informed consent, risk assessment and careful and unbiased selection of the subjects are some of the basic tenets observed when conducting a study on Schizophrenic patients. However, whenever there is a study of high risk, the consent must be obtained from the institution authorities rather than from patients or the parents in accessing school records and medical records of the patients. Therapeutic intervention, drug intervention and psychotherapeutic interventions are ethical obligations that every researcher should consider and abide by. The parameters set for conducting a research where human beings are subjects are researches which are harmful and forbidden, the harmless ones are acceptable while the good ones are enforceable.
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In the Schizophrenia report, it is evident that the three key ethical principles are stressed whenever medical research is conducted. First, informed consent has to be obtained before the research. Due to the high sensitivity and stigma associated with researches especially involving mental illness, there are restrictions to getting valid consent from the patients. In studies involving children who were schizophrenic, the consent has to be obtained from both parents; they are made aware of the purpose of the study (Curran, 1974). Additionally, the questions asked should not be unethical, immoral or illegal. This is meant to protect the family and the subjects from stress and trauma. The issue of beneficence is also put into consideration to ensure the research is done to improve the well being of the subjects and the society at large. Though in the study there were no financial benefits that would accrue to the subjects or their families, the duty was fulfilled in the efforts to unearth the causes of schizophrenia. Justice as an ethical principle is put in place by the increased control and legal regulation. The informal ethical standards have been replaced by civil laws and regulations of the administrative agencies. These guidelines and regulations control researches conducted on humans as subjects.
In order to ensure that the human participants are protected in the research, there are a number of steps that should be taken into consideration. First, informed consent should be sought from the subjects. The participants should be provided with information and efforts should be made to make sure that they comprehend the research fully. Information should be organized, logically and provide room for questioning (Leedy & Ormrod, 2013). A valid and voluntary consent of the participants requires that such consent should not be obtained through duress or coercion. Secondly, risk and benefit assessment should be meticulously evaluated. This involves a systematic and careful analysis of relevant facts involving the benefits derived and potential risks of the research. Finally, selection of the subjects should follow a fair procedure.The researcher should demonstrate fairness to all the participants regardless of race, economic status, or religion.
The soundness of the research methodology is hinged on the scrutiny laid down by the regulatory authorities before the participants are selected. The study should be hinged on outcomes of animals or apes experimentation and general history of the problems or diseases under the study. The expected outcome of the results should validate the implementation. In a nutshell, when the research results cannot be envisaged with certainty, the relevance of the research is questionable. A poorly designed project which does not yield expected results cannot validate exposing humans to any inconvenience or risk. Research designs should also have controls by adopting reluctance to disclose the statistical facts of vulnerability of the subjects.
Curran, J.W. (1974). Ethical and Legal considerations in high risk studies of schizophrenia. Schizophrenia Bulletin, 10, 75-90.
Leedy, P. D. & Ormrod, J. E. (2013). Practical research: Planning and design. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson.