Ethical Conduct for Research Involving Humans

Guidelines for ethical conduct in human research are constantly updated and used as a reference by research participants. They are also intended for members engaged in research governance and researchers involved in human research.


The main goal is to ensure the necessary level of protection for participants in compliance with relevant regulations. In case of conflict between ethics and law, it is important that researchers seek advice and guidance by legal professionals, organizations and relevant bodies, and colleagues.


Research participants are persons whose questions, responses to stimuli and interventions, and information contribute to scientific progress. They are actively involved in research and thus bear risks. For this reason, ethical conduct for research is based on 4 key principles – justice, welfare, concern, and respect for research subjects. These principles apply to both clinical trials and qualitative research. There are legal provisions that govern research involving humans, and standards apply to areas such as decision-making, intellectual property, confidentiality, privacy, and others. Equal treatment is also a core principle and discrimination is prohibited. The Charter of Rights and Freedoms also safeguards the security, liberty, and life of persons involved in human research.

Procedures and Policies

Research is premised on ethical treatment and commitment to human welfare. Respect for human wellbeing, rights, and dignity is a core principle. To this, research bodies and institutions commit to establish relevant procedures and policies for observations, questionnaires, and interviews involving groups or individual participants. Institutions establish and implement guidelines, procedures, and policies for research ethnics. Three bodies are tasked with the review of relevant policies - the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council, the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council, and the Canadian Institutes of Health Research. The Research Ethics Board reviews studies that involve questionnaires, interviews, focus groups, and physical interventions as well as personal information and data that is systemically collected. The Board reviews data and grants ethics approval before research can begin. Applications for ethical review must include supporting documents, a conflict of interest disclosure, a plan outlining the procedures for maintenance and collection of data and its confidentiality, the target population or group of individuals to participate in the investigation, and a description of methodology and the research itself. Research applications are approved only if no greater than minimal risk is involved. Risk is defined as the probability and extent of harm of different nature, including economic, physical, psychological, behavioral, and social. Minimal risk is limited to risk that research participants encounter on a daily basis. It is also important that all participants consent to cooperate and take part in the study.

Why Do People Get Involved in Human Testing

Clinical trials are conducted to make sure that drugs are effective and safe and involve human participants. The reasons why people get involved in human testing and clinical trials are mainly financial. People with a low income level and excessive debt load are forced to look for alternative sources of income to make ends meet (click: here).

Why People Participate in Clinical Trials

Poverty is a complex phenomenon that goes beyond stereotypical and simplistic explanations but low income partly explains why people choose to participate in clinical trials. The main reasons for low income are underemployment, banking on a windfall, and saving too little(click: this). Overspending, splurging, and spending tomorrow's money can be very tempting, and some people spend all of their money long before their check clears. Financial mistakes are complex to solve and expensive while poor money communication skills contribute to the problem.

Loss of income and employment, chronic and serious illnesses, and injury force people to look for short-term solutions to their financial problems. More and more people make purchases on credit cards (click: here) and use loans to pay utility and daily bills. Maxed out cards, excessive use of credit, insolvency, foreclosure, and late and missed payments affect credit history and leave borrowers with more limited options. This means that many people are looking into alternative and non-traditional ways to earn just enough to live on. Human testing is one such way that involves drug and vaccine testing.

Other Reasons

Liabilities on guarantees, unemployment, divorce, relationship breakdown, and domestic discord are some of the reasons for loss of income. Poor credit and financial management skills also lead to bad allocation decisions and financial maladies, contributing to financial stress(see LOC and learn ways to avoid bad credit). In addition, some people resort to alternative sources of income because of outside factors such as losses due to floods, storms, tornadoes, and other natural disasters. People lose their homes and other valuable assets because of disasters, unexpected maintenance expenses, and death in the family. This means that they are forced to find additional sources of income to cover the losses and scrape a living. Getting involved in human testing is a temporary solution to money problems but helps alleviate financial stress to an extent.

The Positives

While people get involved in testing because of bad financial luck, there are international and domestic regulations that help ensure that research involving humans is ethical and safe. Testing on humans is permitted when the potential benefits outweigh the risks. While ethics in clinical trials and human experimentation are a source of concern, tests are first conducted in the form of biochemical experiments and in vitro. The next step in the process is to conduct tests and research on animals to better understand disease mechanisms. Research on human volunteers then helps ensure that new drugs help treat patients more effectively.