Research With the Doubly Vulnerable Population of Individuals Who Abuse Alcohol: An Ethical Dilemma
Gwyn, Priscilla Gage
Colin, Jessie M.
Journal of Psychosocial Nursing and Mental Health Services 2010 February; 48(2): 38-43
Individuals who have maladaptive patterns of drinking alcohol fall into the category of vulnerable research participants for many reasons, not the least of which includes the stigma often placed on individuals who abuse alcohol. Vulnerable subgroups within the population of people who abuse alcohol include women; older adults; incarcerated, socioeconomically disadvantaged, and mentally ill individuals; as well as people from racial minorities. Thus, as research participants, individuals who abuse alcohol can be labeled a doubly vulnerable population. Belonging to more than one population simultaneously can lead to a compromised ability to protect one's own interests or greater susceptibility to harm related to participation in research studies. Arguments against including people who abuse alcohol as research participants will be presented, followed by the argument for including theses individuals, which is suggested as the more ethically sound of the two points of view.
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