Protection of Vulnerable Groups in Research

Protection of Vulnerable Groups in Research

Federal regulations have made it clear that the principle investigator holds the responsibility of protecting the rights of all subjects that have been used in the research. In relation to this, it is mandatory for the researcher to obtain informed consent from all subjects before proceeding with their research. Failure to do this is not only a gross misconduct but also a breach of ethical principles. According to Aldridge (2014), vulnerable groups that need maximum protection by a researcher include children, prisoners, pregnant women, the mentally challenged not forgetting those without an education as well as the poor.

Each of the mentioned categories of people that are considered vulnerable is handled different especially when they must be used in a study. Among children, parental guidance would be required since they may be too young to provide credible and reliable information.  Research that involves the mentally challenged is with no doubt the most daunting task that one would wish to undertake (Lange, Rogers & Dodds, 2013). Psychiatric patients are considered incompetent to give information independently and the researcher would consider involving a surrogate.

Alternatively, prisoners have limited freedom and they have no choice to when it comes to giving or not giving informed consent. The only type of research that may be permitted is one involving their health or social issues. Among the illiterates and the poor, language barrier has been considered to be a major obstacle. To counter this challenge, a third party would be required to help in obtaining information. In all these circumstances, the researcher should ensure that the rights of subjects are observed. The risks that subjects are likely to encounter must be minimized when compared to the anticipated advantages. Besides, equity must be ensured when it comes in subjects’ selection.





Aldridge, J. (2014). Working with vulnerable groups in social research: dilemmas by default and design. Qualitative Research14(1), 112-130.

Lange, M. M., Rogers, W., & Dodds, S. (2013). Vulnerability in research ethics: a way forward. Bioethics27(6), 333-340.

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