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Informed consent is one of the
subjects that must be obtain from the participant in research project whenever
involving human subject. it is the process in which a participant consents to
participate in a research projects after being informed of its procedures,
risks and benefits. In the other fields such as medical treatment, informed
consent also usually be obtained from the patient before doing any procedure at
hospital.

Several definitions of informed
consent have been recognized. According to LeMone and Burke, informed consent
is a legal document required for certain diagnostic procedures or therapeutics
measures, including surgeries. (LeMone
& Burke, 2004). According to
Taber’s Cyclopedic Medical Dictionary, informed consent is a voluntary
agreement made by a well-advice and mentally competent patient to be treated or
randomized into a research study.
(Venes & Taber, 2005). According to the Research Ethics
Guidebooks, consent is a central act in research ethics, as set out in
the 1947 Nuremberg Code. (Consent. n.d.)
According to Bulger,
the Nuremberg Code was established in 1949, for the purpose of having a
standard by which to judge the Nazi scientist and physicians during the
Nuremberg Trials. It consists of 10 basic principles that to be followed by everyone
conducting research with human participants. It also states that all those who
are participating in an experiment are required to give voluntary consent not
under influence such as coercion, fraud, duress or deceit. Ever since then, the
scientific community has continued to revise the principle in order to make
sure the ethical treatment of participants is well protected. The Declaration
of Helsinki and Belmont Report also confirm to the continuous need to refine
the rules and regulations behind the informed consent process.

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The components
of informed consent defined by the
1979 Belmont Report are respect for persons, beneficence and
justice. For respect for persons, participants must be treated as autonomous agents and should be no pressure that been used or implied to encourage participation. They should be given the opportunity to decide whether to
continue or stop from participation at any time, without
prejudice or threat.
Participants must be given the opportunity to ask questions
about the research. As for beneficence, every
action must be taken to protect them from harm and ensure that they experience
the possible benefit from participating in the research to secure the well-being of all research
participants. By mean harm, other than physical injury, it may include feeling of stress and embarrassment. The last components
is justice. Every effort
should be made to distribute the risks and benefits fairly and without bias,
therefore the decision about whom to include or exclude in a research activity
is sensitive. Equal opportunity for participation should be provided,
independent of race, socioeconomic status, or education, unless it is justified
by the objectives of the research activity. The
effort should be made to ensure that participants who are willing to bear the potential risks also receive the
benefits.

In doing research, there are five main ethical
pillars that must be followed by researcher. First, minimize the risk of harm
to participants. This principle stress on how a research should not harm
participants by considering all aspects that could bring harm such as physical
harm, psychological distress and discomfort, social disadvantage, financial
status or an invasion of participant’s privacy and anonymity. Non-maleficence
requires a high level of sensitivity from the researcher about what constitutes
“harm” (Ford L., 2009). Discomfort and harm can be physiological,
emotional, social and economic in nature (Burns N., 2005). By acknowledging
these risk aspects, interventions to avoid or minimizing the risk of harm could
be taken by researcher.

Second, attain informed consent from participants. The
idea of informed consent is one of the foundations of research. Informed
consent means the knowing consent of a person without undue inducement or any
element of force, extortion, duress or any other form of constraint or
coercion. It is the researcher’s responsibility to provide sufficient
information in comprehensible and simple language on the benefits and possible
risks ahead of the participant’s involvement in the research, so that participant
can make a well-informed judgement about participation. Informed consent is not
just a form, but a process, when it was done appropriately, the process assures
that participants are willingly participating in the research with full
knowledge and information of relevant risks and benefits. In some cases, that
involve people with low autonomy such as young children, very ill people or
mentally disables, they could only be included in research under specific
circumstances, as they not able to make fully informed decisions on their own.
They should always be protected.  

The third component of research ethics is by
ensuring the anonymity and individuality of research participants. Protecting
anonymity of information from participants means that either the researcher
does not collect personal information of participants such as name, address,
email, job, year of services or the researcher does not link individual
responses with participants’ identities. Unless it is necessarily essential to
the aimed protocol, participant’s personal details should be keep ‘anonymous’
to protect the participant confidentiality. Nonetheless, permission should be
obtained before any confidential information is used.

Forth principle of research ethics is to reject any
kinds of deceptive practices. Deceptive may not be seen as an issue if an
informed consent has been performed, however the question is, how can the
participants know what the research requires of them if they are being
deceived? this question makes the use of deceptive practices in doubt.
Therefore, dissertation research should avert any types of deceptive practices.
However, deception is sometimes being allowed in covert research where the
identity of the observer and the purpose of the research is not known to
participants. This is most likely to be the case where a research needs an
observation rather than through direct contact with participants, for example;
observing what type of customers who like giving tips in the tip jar.

Lastly, allowing the participants to withdraw is one
of the principles of research ethics that should be followed by researcher. Participants
should have the right to withdraw from the research process at any stage and
when the decision to withdraw was made, the participant should not be pressured
or coerced in any way in order to stop them from withdrawing. According to Good
Clinical Practice (GCP) guidelines, an individual can withdraw from research at
any time without revealing the reason of discontinuation.

These basic principles of research ethics should be
taken into account when performing a research as it can help to ensure that
researchers can be held accountable to the public, in terms of human right,
social responsibility and public health and safety. Researchers should be
reminded that any ethical lapses in research can significantly harm the
subjects and result to a low-quality research study.   

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