Belmont report has in a great deal helped in establishing ethical guidelines for conducting research and experimentation in several spheres. It has helped in formulation of ethical principles and guidelines that have helped in protection of human subjects who have taken part in research (National Institutes of Health, 1979).
It cannot be denied that scientific research has its inherent social benefits but it has to be noted that some disturbing ethical questions have been raised by these researches (Commission for Protection of Human subjects, 1979). There have been issues related to abuse of human subjects especially after World War II when biomedical experiments were conducted on prisoners in concentration camps.
There was not for these experiments to be done in an ethical manner. This research will discuss the role Belmont Report has played in establishing ethical guidelines for conducting research and experimentation.
Belmont report expressly reiterates that subjects who take part in research have to consent to take part in that particular research. The consent has to be informed. Subjects have to be in the know of what is to become of them as participants. This is only possible when certain conditions are satisfied. There are three elements of consent namely information, comprehension, and voluntariness.
Subjects have right to know the purpose of the research, the procedure that is involved, the inherent risks and benefits, and where therapy is involved, an alternative procedure that will be involved. Subjects must be accorded opportunity to ask question and withdraw from research when they feel like. Likewise, the subjects have to fully comprehend the manner and context of the information conveyed. Information should not be divulged in disorganized and rapid fashion.
A subject’s consent to participate in a research activity can only valid if they do so voluntarily. Subjects should not be coerced or influenced unduly. Usage of overt threat is unethical as it amounts to coercion. Subjects should also not be inappropriately rewarded as this amount to undue influence.
Assessment of risks and benefits
Investigators have to ensure that proposed research is properly designed. Assessment of risks and benefits helps the review committee to determine if risks the subjects are presented with are justified.
Assessment of risks and benefits helps the subjects in determining whether they should participate in a study or not. It is pertinent that the nature and scope of the risks involved are ascertained to help subjects know if the risks and benefits are favorable. It is imperative that risks and effects that directly impact the research subject is given much attention.
Risks and benefits must be systematically assessed so that a balance is arrived at (Kiefer, 2001). In assessment of justifiability of research, aspects touching on brutality or inhuman treatment of subjects should not be deemed morally justified. When vulnerable populations are involved in a research, it is imperative that a demonstration be made as to why they have to be involved.
Selection of subjects
Selection of subjects to take part in a research should take into consideration fair procedures and outcomes. Individual justice in selection of subjects requires that fairness be involved.
Potentially beneficial researches should not be a preserve of a particular group of subjects. Social justice demands that a distinction be made between subjects that should or should not take part in research. Using this criterion, classes of subjects like the adults, and children do arise. On this basis preference may be given to children or adults.
Ethics demand that subjects taking part in research are adequately informed about what the research is all about. Moreover, they have to be informed about the risks and the benefits involved. Finally, the selection of subjects should integrate aspects of individual justice and social justice.
National Institutes of Health. (1979). The Belmont Report
Ethical Principles and Guidelines for the protection of human subjects of research. Retrieved June 18, 2011, from http://ohsr.od.nih.gov/guidelines/belmont.html
Kiefer, J. (2001). The History and Importance of Informed Consent in Clinical Trials. Retrieved June 18, 2011, from http://serendip.brynmawr.edu/biology/b103/f01/web2/kiefer.html
The National Commission for the Protection of Human Subjects of Biomedical and
Behavioral Research. (1979). Regulations and Ethical Guidelines. National Institutes of Health.