Introduction It is believed the psychology emerged on its modern footings almost a century ago however its influence is still considered to be current in terms of its impact on the overall sciences related with mental and physical health of a person. What was most fascinating about this emergence of the psychology is the fact that it had radically changed the way we use to perceive and view life at large. However no science can play a constructive and positive role in society until and unless it is not ethically practiced.
Ethics in any field of science and arts play critical role in defining the overall formation of the profession as following highest ethical standards are considered as the cornerstone of the individual’s achievements in her chosen field.
However ethical standards also vary according to the profession of a person and it is also evident that presence of many professional bodies in one profession may outline their own ethical standards and guidelines to follow thus ethical standards have very rich and diverse nature as compared to other professional guidelines. In many cases, following ethical standards is a legal binding whereas in other cases, following ethical standards is considered as the moral binding of the person who is practicing the profession.
Ethics in psychology and medical research are one of the most important areas of the overall profession which greatly shape the professional conduct of the profession. Psychology in its essence a science which is not only delicate but also difficult to practice gives the overall impact it can have over the mental and physical health of the person.
The issue of ethics further complicates when it comes to dealing with mentally retarded children diagnosed with Hepatitis and as it not only involve the role of psychologist in the overall management of the patient’s mental health but also place a psychologist in a different position in terms of the patients’ families and their friends.
Traditionally researchers have relied on the principles of value avoiding and value neutral model where it was believed that in order to get the truth- the truth about the person, moral values could not be taken into account. (Lowen, 1993). However, psychology developed the habit of evaluating a person’s mental health in terms of the cultural set up and norm under which a person use to live therefore the ethical values also emerged in that context as there emerged a greater divide between the profession and its ethics.
The criteria for the evaluation of human existence and the ability of the medical professional to view the same in that particular set of environment rendered the professional dexterity to the minimum as the ethical scope of the profession broadened.
With the advent of new type of diseases such as cancer, HIV and AIDS, Hepatitis .the role of medical professionals as well as Psychologists greatly increased too putting them under great scrutiny due to the multidimensional impacts of those diseases not only on the physical and mental health of the patients but of their families and friends too.
However one must also understand the way changes in medical technology is taking place thus effectively making a great shift towards the practice of the profession on more ethical grounds as compared to its practices which were in practice before the development of medical technology thus there is a very blurred line now between what is ethical and what is not. The question remains as to how those who practice the profession view it from the perspective of its perceived ethical boundaries.
Discussion “Ethics is the systematic study of moral reasoning in theory and practice. It clarifies questions about right and wrong, but also demonstrates their complexity: most ethical theories and many moral judgments are contestable. Some norms, values or principles are sufficiently widely agreed for codes of professional practice or laws to be based on them. But no ethical theory or decision-making method yields unequivocal conclusions which convince everybody: too many different beliefs, philosophies, cultural backgrounds and life experiences influence our views of right and wrong.
Meaningful and constructive discussion of practical ethical problems nevertheless is possible when conceptual frameworks developed throughout the history of ethical reasoning are used to examine the facts and values in question. Such discussions can lead to a degree of consensus, or at least to a mutual understanding of divergent views.” (Benn & Boyd, 1996).
On the much broader scale, there are three core principles which have been extensively discussed and practiced. These three core areas include respect for the person, beneficence and justice. Ben and Boyd are of the view that the respect for individual includes providing access to the information which helps individuals to decide upon themselves however when a psychologist is managing a patient with Hepatitis and is also a mentally retarded child, psychologists may not fully comply with this ethical standard as patients who pass through intense trauma can develop tendencies to commit suicides.
Since these children patient also goes through social isolation therefore medical research have to make a trade off when disseminating information to their clients regarding their mental health emerging as a result of the physical symptoms of Hepatitis. Informed consent is another very important ethical dilemma which most of the practioner including psychologists face. There is also a great debate over how the patients’ families will react to the results of the testing as there is a strong psychological effect of the same on the client- in most cases they are the families of the retarded children..
A very commonly held view is that of the fact that informing about the Hepatitis tests have detrimental psychological impacts on the clients that may lead to the great distress, depression and possible increase of suicidal tendencies into the patients therefore medical practioner need to view the issue of Hepatitis testing and the informed consent in much bigger perspective rather than viewing it in more closer and with narrow scope limiting it just to the patient’s mental health. (Sieff, Dawes, & Loewenstein, 1999).
Lastly, there is also a debate regarding the research ethics in medical research in terms of Hepatitis in mentally retarded children. As discussed above about the informed consent and the role practioner can play, there is also a dual role for practioner when it comes to researching the psychological impacts of Hepatitis on the patients and their families especially. Here informed consent becomes more complicated because while researching for the subject as “The expectations of potential research participants may complicate obtaining informed consent in the research context. Although the goal of research is to test a hypothesis and develop generalizable knowledge, many participants enter research studies to benefit personally.
The language that investigators use (e.g., "experiment" vs. "research") may have significantly different meanings for participants and affect their understanding of their participation. Many participants also do not understand randomization and expect that decisions about which intervention they receive will be based on their individual clinical needs.
Some may not even be aware that they are participating in research. Some of these misconceptions may arise because patients apply their own experience with health care providers, who have an ethical obligation to place patients' interests first, to the research setting, which must take responsibility for the scientific and logistical aspects of the research as well as the interests of the individual participant. Because of such hopes and misconceptions, patients may misinterpret the information given to them about the study.” (Wolf & Lo, 2001)
Thus the ability of the practioner to exert influence over the patient give researcher the more influence and power to shape the consent and final opinion of the patient therefore it become more complicated and ethically more penetrating to exercise care and practice utmost ethical standards to conduct the research in its true sense.
Bridging the gap between the ethics and research can greatly help society and the medical profession itself. A well formed ethical research can gain the positive node of many different players in the field of research including institutional bodies which ensure the ethical compliance. By ensuring such compliance and reducing the gap between the research and the professional research itself, the results and outcomes of the research can be greatly enhanced with the idea that the supervised research is conducted with utmost intellectual honesty as well as compliance with ethical standards.
In this regard, it is very important to understand that the role of institutional compliance as well as the standard ethics committees can be effective in this regard. Institutional compliance ensure that all the institutions must integrate laws and other regulatory requirements besides attempting to bridge the gap between the ethics and the research by outlining clearly defined set of rules and procedures to be followed.
It is also important to discuss that the management of the institutions conducting the research in this regard need to be impartial and proactive in this regard. Since, such kind of research can also be commercial in nature therefore management of such institutions need to be proactive in its approach. Since, most of the ethical standards on research are already present in one form another therefore management has the utmost and prime responsibility of ensuring the compliance with these standards.
As a person with the ability to influence the managerial outcomes of such research process, my emphasis would be bringing in more and more training to researchers to make them well versed with existing ethical standards and how, through innovative use of these ethical standards, new ethical dilemmas can be avoided.
Conclusion There has been historically a gap between what happens practically and what should have happened. This gap gives rise to the conflict between the medical research and ethics. However, through proactive managerial approaches such conflict can be avoided as compliance with the institutional compliance and ethics program can significantly reduce such conflict.
Bibliography Benn, C., & Boyd, K. (1996). Ethics, medical ethics and HIV/AIDS - Does Ethics Divide or Unite? Some Orthodox Visions of Ecumenism. Ecumenical Review , 5.
Lowen, J. (1993). Is Everything Permitted? Reconnecting Psychology and Ethics. Free Inquiry , 13 (3), 22+.
Sieff, E. M., Dawes, R. M., & Loewenstein, G. (1999). Anticipated versus Actual Reaction to HIV Test Results. The American Journal of Psychology , 112 (2), 297-311.
Wolf, L. E., & Lo, B. (2001, August). Ethical Dimensions of HIV/AIDS. Retrieved June 20, 2008, from HIV InSite Knowledg: http://hivinsite.ucsf.edu/InSite?page=kb-08-01-05