Assessing the Ethical Costs and Benefits of Trauma-Focused Research
Walker, Edward A.
General Hospital Psychiatry. 1999 May-Jun; 21(3): 187-196.
Although scientists and members of Institutional Review Boards must balance the needs of investigators and participants in research, virtually no evidence is available to inform this decision making. This study examines the frequency and correlates of adverse reactions and adequacy of informed consent among 1174 women in an HMO who completed a trauma-focused health survey, and a subset of 252 women who later completed a trauma-focused research interview. Despite the sensitive content, the majority of women participants found participation in the interview and the questionnaire study to be a positive experience. Although a small number of women, particularly those with a history of maltreatment, underestimated the level of upset they would subsequently experience, the majority still did not regret participating, indicating that informed consent procedures were adequate, with a large proportion reporting immediate perceptions of personal gain. Finally, the cost-benefit ratio appears stable 48 hours post-interview, with some minor fluctuations. Overall, these results suggest that research on childhood victimization is well tolerated by women who participate. Though a small number of women may be disturbed by these investigations, in general, adverse reactions appear less common than previously anticipated.
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