The risks and benefits of participating in trauma-focused research studies

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Abstract

Concern about minimizing harm and maximizing benefit has been particularly acute with regard to the scientific study of individuals exposed to potentially traumatic events such as terrorist attack or disaster. This review outlines conceptual and practical issues and summarizes available evidence regarding potential risks and benefits of participation in trauma-related research. Current, limited evidence suggests that most individuals make favorable cost–benefit appraisals regarding their participation. Although a subset of participants report strong negative emotions or unanticipated distress, the majority of these do not regret or negatively evaluate the overall experience. Continuing efforts are needed to identify individuals at risk for unfavorable reactions to research participation. A systematic empirical approach to evaluating participant experience in all human research is recommended.

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