According to Walsh pg. 1, vulnerable group in research include those individuals who have no control to be included in research. They include the mentally incapacitated, refugees, prisoners, elderly, children, addicts, and sexual minorities. Challenges that a researcher might encounter while dealing with vulnerable populations include confidentiality, exploitation, and informed consent. Given this, the paper will discuss these challenges as related to clinical research.
First, researchers find it hard to get informed consent to include certain groups such as pregnant women and children. In this scenario, the target sample might be from a particular cultural background that has strict family regulations. For instance, in most African and Asian societies women do not make their own decision, and it might require the consent of their partners to include them in research. In the case of the uneducated, it is arduous to explain to them their role in the research which can hinder them from signing the consent form.
Secondly, there is the challenge of a researcher being termed exploitive if they are noted as gathering information from economically disadvantaged groups such as the refugees and minorities. According to Denny and Grady pg. 383, researchers might find it difficult to justify the inclusion of such individuals without receiving criticism from human rights activists.
Finally, the confidentiality of the collected data is a challenge to researchers, where there is no legislation with a comprehensive guide on confidentiality in the medicine realm (UCI). For instance, when a clinician has to collect data from hospital records pertaining a particular illness or intervention, they might not be able to explain to all patients the privacy concerns due to educational background and nature of the patient. Similarly, when collecting data from a vulnerable group such as women or HIV victims, privacy rules are often violated. The acceptable ways of maintaining confidentiality in research include advertising for volunteers or sending introduction letters. In most instances, a researcher will not attain their targeted sample, of which using this standard means can undermine the whole research.
Denny, Colleen C, and Christine Grady. “Clinical Research with Economically Disadvantaged Populations.” Journal of Medical Ethics 33.7 (2007): 382–385.PMC. Web. 13 May 2016.
UCI. “Privacy and Confidentiality.” Research.uci.edu. Web. 13 May 2016.
Walsh, Susan.”Conducting Research with the Elderly: Ethical Concerns for a Vulnerable Population”. Journal of Nursing Research 9.4 (2009): 1-3. Web. 13 May 2016.