Current Psychiatry Reports

, Volume 6, Issue 4, pp 262-267

First online:

Ethics of research on survivors of trauma

  • Soraya SeedatAffiliated withMedical Research Council Unit on Anxiety and Stress Disorders, Department of Psychiatry, University of Stellenbosch
  • , Willem P. Pienaar
  • , David Williams
  • , Daniel J. Stein

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Essential elements of all research include balance of risks and benefits, unbiased selection of research samples, and assurance of the rights of individual participants. This paper highlights some key ethical issues and summarizes recent evidence relating to participation in, and conduct of, trauma-focused studies with special reference to vulnerable populations (eg, women and children, refugees, survivors of human rights violations, and survivors of trauma in the developing world). A concise ethical framework, rather than rigid guidelines (that may not be applicable to all trauma studies), may be a more useful point of reference for investigators and ethics committees or institutional review boards. Despite the increased empiric data available to inform ethical dilemmas regarding trauma research, more cost-burden analysis research in varying trauma populations and careful investigation of factors that contribute to risk and benefit is required.