BMC Medical Ethics

, 4:2

First online:

Open Access This content is freely available online to anyone, anywhere at any time.

The unique ethical challenges of conducting research in the rehabilitation medicine population

  • Jeff BlackmerAffiliated withDivision of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, University of Ottawa The Rehabilitation Centre Email author 



The broad topic of research ethics is one which has been relatively well-investigated and discussed. Unique ethical issues have been identified for such populations as pediatrics, where the issues of consent and assent have received much attention, and obstetrics, with concerns such as the potential for research to cause harm to the fetus. However, little has been written about ethical concerns which are relatively unique to the population of patients seen by the practitioner of rehabilitation medicine.


This paper reviews unique ethical concerns in conducting research in this population, including decision-making capacity, communication, the potential for subject overuse, the timing of recruitment, hope for a cure and therapeutic misconception and the nature of the health care provider-research subject relationship.


Researchers in the area of rehabilitation medicine should be aware of some of the unique ethical challenges posed by this patient population and should take steps to address any potential concerns in order to optimize subject safety and ensure that studies meet current ethical guidelines and standards.

ethics research rehabilitation medicine