Ethical Dimensions

Description of the case that you selected and the ethical issues involved. Analyze the
ethical principles that were breached by the researchers or organizations in your selected
case as well as the possible cause of the breach(es). Suggest how the research might have
been conducted differently to avoid or minimize the ethical problems. Discuss how research
can be done on sensitive issues while still protecting the rights of the research subjects.

Ethical Dimensions of Research Studies

Usually, researchers are required to adhere to the ethical guidelines during scientific
studies, including designing and implementation of the studies that use human beings as subjects

ETHICAL DIMENSIONS IN RESEARCH STUDIES 2
(Newcomb, 2010). However, there has been cases in which some researchers have failed to
conform to the ethical requirements leading to court cases and hefty penalties. One such case is
the Grimes versus Kennedy Krieger Institute case which has become important as it entails the
concerns surrounding ethical issues during research. The case was as a result of the lead
abatement study which was conducted in Baltimore, Maryland to determine and evaluate the
effect of low-cost lead control measures (Rhodes, 2015). When it was being carried out, almost
95% of private low-income housings in Baltimore had paints with lead in their homes. During
the study, the blood levels of lead of the participating children, as well as the environmental
samples of lead both outside and inside the houses, were assessed. The plaintiffs, mothers of two
children who participated in the study, accused Krieger Institute of being negligent due to the
manner in which they carried out their study by breaching their duty of care to minors.
The case of the plaintiffs was based on three fundamental contentions, which were; the
research exposed children to an unacceptable level of risk. The researcher drew blood from
children who they used as controlled population. Federal regulations are very specific when it
comes to using minors as controls in studies where there is no potential benefit, particularly to
the minors. Secondly, the Krieger Institute failed to adequately inform the parents about some of
the risks that were associated with the research. During the study, it was anticipated children
would accumulate lead in the bloodstream from the dust hence help the researchers in finding out
the degree to which different methods of abatement worked. However, the researchers did not
provide parents with a complete and clear explanation that the research was aimed at measuring
the extent of contamination of the children’s blood. The researchers wanted children to be
canaries of lead but never told the parents. The researchers and the IRB did not see anything

ETHICAL DIMENSIONS IN RESEARCH STUDIES 3
wrong with the study. They believed that the parents’ consents made the research process
appropriate. Also, the institute took too long to inform parents about the increased levels of lead.
To minimize the ethical problems, the institution should have informed the parents that at
least it was contemplated that the children would take in particles of lead and that the
concentration of ingested lead in the blood would be used as an indicator of the success of the
experiment. It is important for parents to have informed consent and the risks associated with the
study be outlined comprehensively. The researchers should also have used laboratory animals
such as mice in carrying out the experiment. Exposing children to lead increases their risk of
developing permanent and profound health effects which affect the development of not only their
brain but also the entire nervous system. Moreover, the institution should not have waited for a
long time before informing them.
To prevent similar incidents in future, the IRBs, researchers, as well as sponsors, should
rethink about the ethical issues surrounding research studies on housing health hazards that
involve children. Enforcement of stricter limits on studies that expose children to risks should be
enforced. There should also be stronger IRB reviews and broader discussions about informed
consent.

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References

Newcomb, P. (2010). Evolving fairness in research on human subjects.
Rhodes, R. (2015). Good and not so good medical ethics. Journal of medical ethics, 41(1), 71-
74.

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