Medicine, Health Care and Philosophy

, Volume 18, Issue 1, pp 149–152 | Cite as

Informants a potential threat to confidentiality in small studies

  • Gert HelgessonEmail author
Short Communication


Providing proper protection of confidentiality, by preventing personal data from falling into the hands of third parties, is one of the core responsibilities of researchers towards research participants. However, even if researchers do their best in this regard, it does not guarantee that breaches of confidentiality will be avoided. This paper addresses the case of small qualitative studies, arguing that researchers cannot guarantee their informants’ confidentiality, since that confidentiality may be compromised by actions taken by the informants themselves. In order to reduce the risk of this specific threat to confidentiality, additional precautions need to be taken. Some potential solutions to the problem are suggested and discussed.


Confidentiality Ethics Informants Research ethics 



The author would like to thank Niels Lynöe and Tomas Månsson, both at the Stockholm Centre for Healthcare Ethics, Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm, for constructive criticism of an earlier version of this paper.

Conflicts of interests

The author declares that he has no competing interests.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Stockholm Centre for Healthcare Ethics (CHE), Department of Learning, Informatics, Management and Ethics (LIME)Karolinska InstitutetStockholmSweden

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