Basic Ethical Principles
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Basic Ethical Principles

Four Basic Ethical Principles are relevant to research involving human subjects.

Four basic ethical principles are relevant to research involving human subjects:

Respect for Person

Individuals undergoing treatment in any health care system should be treated as independent persons who are capable of making decisions in their own interest. Individuals whose decision making capability is diminished are entitled to protection. The nurse can determine this with consistent reassessment of the client’s cognitive state. Clients should be made aware of the alternatives available to them in their health care, as well as the consequences that stem from those alternatives. Furthermore, the client’s choice should be honored whenever possible. It is imperative that the nurse recognize when the client is not capable of rational decision making and is therefore entitle to protection.

Autonomy is an integral component of respect for person. Autonomy is the right of self determination. In health care settings, health care personnel must respect the clients’ right to make decisions about themselves, even if the decision is not what the personnel wanted or thought was best for the client. Generally clients can refuse any and all treatments except when the decision poses a threat to others, such as with tuberculosis, when taking medications is legally mandated. Clients have the right to refuse to participate in a research study and many withdraw from the study at any time without penalty of any kind.


Beneficence is the duty to not harm others, to maximize possible benefits, and to minimize possible harm that might occur in research. It is often not possible to know whether something is beneficial unless it is tested and individuals have been exposed to the risks. A central question to this issue is, Who makes this decision-the client or those caring for the client?


Justice requires that all people be treated fairly. Expansion of justice includes equal access to health care for all. Justice can be limited when it interferes with the rights of other. The principle of justice in the context of clinical drug trials means that social benefits and burdens can be allocated objectively and that those with equivalent circumstances should be treated equally. A challenge to the nurse is the allocation of scarce resources.

Truth Telling

Truth telling is a principle that requires health care personnel to tell the truth and the whole truth. When there is bad news to tell the client, the health care provider may be reluctant to tell the truth and answer questions honestly. The client has the right to know the truth, including the bad news.

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Comments (1)

are this the only four principles the whole world....