Ethical Issues in Healthcare Research

Ethical Issues in Healthcare Research

Research is a process of collecting information from the field and analyzing the data collected to come up with justified conclusions about a specific phenomenon.

The concept of ethics in research

The concept of ethics in research is used to protect the subjects either human beings or animals from violation of their rights. Ethical issues usually arise when human beings are used as test subjects. Research ethics has three main objectives; to protect human participants, to ensure research is conducted in a manner that serves the individual and the community, and to examine specific issues in research such as confidentiality, informed consent, and risk management (Ponterotto, 2013). Ethical issues have been a topic of discussion in the past, and this paper analyzes ethical issues in two popular types of research conducted in the past. The Tea-Room Trade and Tuskegee Syphilis studies are among the many types of research that show the violation of ethics in research. This paper discusses the ethical principle violated, strategies used to maintain standards of ethical research and alternative suggestions to the problems identified in the two cases.


Case 1: The Tea-Room Trade by Laud Humphreys

The Tea-Room Trade is a research paper written in 1965 in an attempt to explain the social behavior that had been ignored by many scientists concerning homosexuality. Humphrey realized that homosexuality was practiced among American men and it was never mentioned or criticized because those involved were respected men of the society…

Ethical Principles at Issue

Informed consent: Participants in research have the right to be told what the research entails, the risks and alternatives to the choices made during the research. Humphrey failed to adhere to this principle because the participants were not informed of the ongoing research. Humphrey employed the method of covert participant observation well known as “watch queen” to observe the activities of the homosexuals. It is evident from the book that he could cough or show signs to the participants when guests approached the toilets (Babbie, 2014). The participants had no information that they were under research.

Deception of privacy: Humphrey’s research involved interviews conducted on the participants, but the method used to gain access to the information was dubious. ..

Strategies to Ensure Standards of Ethical Research

Research methodology Strategy: It is argued that Humphrey’s method of conducting the research violated the ethical principles of research. It is true that privacy and the right to informed consent were not considered. However, I strongly believe the methodology used for the research best suited the scenario (Babbie, 2014).

…Secondly, Humphrey used the strategy of interviewing to keep the research moving. He changed his looks together with the automobiles used during the defiant past. Changing the lifestyle ensured that his identity was not disclosed which could have led to legal issues or breach of information. Humphrey argues that this were the only methods to prevent distortion of the research. The validity of the research was maintained, and no other method is likely to produce results as Humphrey’s strategy.

Success of the Strategies

Alternative Strategies


Case 2: Tuskegee Syphilis Study

The Tuskegee Syphilis Study is the second case related to the Tea-room research that portrays the violation of ethical research principals. The study conducted in the last century has emerged to be one of the infamous and controversial studies conducted in the history of the United States. The government of the United States in conjunction with the Tuskegee Institute of medical research initiated a survey to study racial differences in the development of syphilis. The study recruited 600 participants from Macon County, Alabama and coerced them with an excuse that they had bad blood (Reverby, 2013). Throughout the study, the participants were given food and catered for properly with hired African-American doctors. However, the participants were not given treatment even after the discovery of penicillin in 1943. The researchers also prevented other doctors from treating the recruited participants. The study has since been criticized with the unethical treatment of the participants. Various ethical principles like integrity, nonmaleficence, justice, and respect for human rights are associated with the Tuskegee Syphilis Study.

Ethical Principles at Issue

Informed consent: The American Psychological Association provides standards for treatment or research programmes conducted and the principle of informed consent is one of the standards (Resnik, 2014)…

Deception: Deceiving participants in research is prohibited by the American Psychological Association because it might cause potential harm…

Justice and Integrity: Research adopts the ethical principles of integrity and justice through upholding of high standards of honesty and ensuring access to beneficial services (Resnik, 2014)…

Strategies to Ensure Standards of Ethical Research

Recruitment Strategy: The Tuskegee study respected the rights of the participants by announcing a free recruitment process…

Protection of anonymity and confidentiality: Confidentiality is the ability to keep information between the parties of interest and avoiding disclosure of patient’s identity…

Success of the Strategies

The Tuskegee research lasted for 40 years irrespective of the challenges experienced. The strategies used were very much effective to keep the participants in place….

Alternative Strategies

The study was done in violation of several ethical principles as stipulated in the paper…

Best Case Scenario

The Tea-Room Trade research represents a better utilization of ethical principles in research than the Tuskegee Syphilis study. Looking at the ethical principles violated in the first case, it is evident that privacy and the right to informed consent were violated…

Ethical, Practical and Political consequences

The two cases led to impacts in the lives of the participants the society and the law. The Tea-Room Trade case had an impact on the social life of people because they realized homosexuality was practiced within the community…


Babbie, E. (2014). Laud Humphreys and research ethics. International journal of sociology and social policy24(3/4/5), 12-19.

Ponterotto, J. G. (2013). Qualitative research in multicultural psychology: Philosophical underpinnings, popular approaches, and ethical considerations.

Resnik, D. B. (2015, December). What is ethics in research & why is it important. In ideas.

Reverby, S. M. (Ed.). (2013). Tuskegee’s truths: Rethinking the Tuskegee syphilis study. UNC Press Books.

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