Ethics: Respect For Persons


Respect for persons according to the Belmont report in the most basic sense means letting individuals exercise their autonomy free of coercion by their own will ( “The Belmont Report.”). This principle could be misunderstood my someone easily by taking it to mean that everything that is going to happen must be explained and that there will be no surprises or unexpected turns. However; the report states that although a much information should be disclosed including risks/benefits (back to the principle of beneficence), some information may require it not be disclosed due to the nature of some experiments, which doesn't directly go against this principle as long as the user is aware of what is involved and has accepted the potential risks and unknowns involved.

Difficulty of Application:

Some situations that may make it difficult for the principle of respecting persons that could make it difficult is dealing with those who have ‘diminished autonomy’, such as children or those with some sort of mental disability that clouds their decision making process ( “The Belmont Report.”). When dealing with these group of individuals, although typically avoided as to respect them and allow their own autonomy, sometimes it is necessary and that leads to the problem of making sure they are comfortable and getting extra permission/help from parents, guardians or those who help the decision making progress of those with diminished autonomy. Other examples of situations that are not easy can be those who do not cooperate or aren’t sure if they want to participate, where it may seem advantageous to try to coerce them, it is strictly against the report to do so and they must volunteer out of their own free will ( “The Belmont Report.”). Which could pose as an issue for researchers trying to get something done and coercion may seem tempting but needs to be strictly avoided to remain in compliance with the principles stated.

Research Example:

The research example I chose to look at was researching minors video game habits and the ethics involved with it. The research example does deal mainly with children (a group classified as having diminished autonomy), but the parents and teachers they dealt with were considered to have autonomy. Both sides of the spectrum were represented here and to be able to research the children involved parents were needed to confirm the researchers were allowed to work with their children as to abide by the Belmont report and respect for persons. Parents were informed beforehand but were none-the-less concerned when the data was put out and many dropped out of the research which “…highlights the importance of providing parents with reassurances about how the results will be used and to ensure anonymity is discussed.” (Hodge). Acknowledging that the parents needed to give permission and letting them know what was happening shows that they followed the principles of respect for persons. To show further that the informed consent was given they said that “ …a balance needs to be created between informing parents without making them feel judged if their children are playing games rated above their age.” (Hodge). This statement not only acknowledges their parents autonomy by giving them choice without coercion but also shows that they were being informed about the things happening within the research, such as them being informed about the risks and benefits.

Design Example:

My design from week two was for an app that allowed for collection of data on wild animals both inside and outside of national parks. Respecting persons and acknowledging their autonomy in an app like this would mean telling each user in some way (probably in the description of the app or a pop up), where the data they are collecting is going, the purpose of the data and how it may be used. Respecting the people using it not only involves letting them known what exactly is happening but not forcing them into dangerous situations, so other warnings that may be implemented such as informing the user to keep distance from wild animals, which informs the user of what is happening and why while allowing them to retain their autonomy and make decisions for themselves or let their guardians help them make it (if user has diminished autonomy). Informed consent as stated above would make it so the user has to acknowledge the possible dangers before advancing into the app and beginning the actual research segment. Making sure the user understands the risks and possible dangers is crucial in research and crucial for the researched to acknowledge that and respect them.

Works Cited:

“The Belmont Report.” U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 15 Mar. 2016. Web. 14 May. 2017.

Hodge, Sarah, Jacqui Taylor, and John McAlaney. Restricted Content: Ethical Issues with Researching Minor’s Video Game Habits. Publication. N.p.: ACM, n.d. Print.

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