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Ethical issues in health-care inquiry: A discussion paper

Authors

  • Jeanette J Ignacio BScNurs BScPsych MD,

    Senior Lecturer, Corresponding author
    • Alice Lee Centre for Nursing Studies, Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine, National University of Singapore, Singapore
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  • Beverley Joan Taylor PhD

    Professor of Nursing, Research Director
    1. Faculty of Medicine, Nursing and Health Sciences, School of Nursing and Midwifery, Monash University, Victoria, Australia
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Correspondence: Jeanette J. Ignacio, Alice Lee Centre for Nursing Studies, Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine, National University of Singapore, 117597 Singapore. Email: nurimjj@nus.edu.sg

Abstract

This paper is a discussion of the possible ethical dilemmas that may arise in both qualitative and quantitative research despite stringent methodological protocols. Three categories of ethical issues will be elaborated on, namely, researcher–participant relations, informed consent and confidentiality and privacy. These are of note because ethical dilemmas most often arise in these areas. Both qualitative and quantitative research types may thus present with problems associated with any, or a combination, of these categories. Methodological rigour will also be discussed as a vital component of any research study. Critics of the qualitative approach have often suggested that the innate lack of methodological rigour has resulted in the preponderance of ethical issues in qualitative studies. Qualitative studies, similar to quantitative studies, have mechanisms that guarantee rigour, quality and trustworthiness. These checks are at par with those of quantitative research but based on different criteria. Both types of research, then, can be considered equal in terms of methodological rigour, regardless of the nature. As no research approach can be perfectly free from threats of ethical issues, it is the researcher's responsibility to address these in ways that will be less harmful to the participants, bearing in mind ethical problems can arise at any time during the research endeavour.

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