Ethical Practices and Legal Challenges in Mental Health Research


Considerations of justice and concern for well-being support conducting mental health research and addressing ethical concerns specific to mental health research are critical. We discuss these concerns, provide recommendations to enable the ethical conduct of mental health research, and argue that participants’ interests should be given primary weight in resolving apparent dilemmas. We also comment on provisions of two legislative actions in India relevant to mental health research: Rights of Persons with Disability Act 2016 and the Mental Health Care Act 2017. Both conform to the 2006 United Nations Convention on Rights of Persons with Disabilities of which India is a signatory. Both provide protections and enumerate rights relevant to people with mental health conditions but with differing focus. The commonalities and differences between the three are discussed in the background of international literature on research in mental health conditions. Studies involving deception and future directions for ethical requirements regarding genetic research are discussed.

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The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of NIH. Fogarty International Center, NIH, had no role in the design and writing of this manuscript, or approval of the manuscript, and decision to submit the manuscript for publication. ICMR had no role in the present manuscript.


The work was partially supported by the grants ‘Training Program for Psychiatric Genetics in India (D43 TW006167)’ and ‘Cross Fertilized Research Training for new investigators in India and Egypt (D43 TW009114)’ to V.L.N. and S.N.D. funded by Fogarty International Center, NIH. Salary of TB was supported by the grant ‘The impact of yoga supplementation on cognitive function among Indian outpatients with schizophrenia, TW008289 to T.B funded by Fogarty International Center, NIH. The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of NIH. Fogarty International Center, NIH had no role in the design and writing of this manuscript; or approval of the manuscript; and decision to submit the manuscript for publication. We also thank the Indian Council of Medical Research, New Delhi for funding our group to formulate the first mutating ethical guidelines for research on mentally ill persons. ICMR had no role in the present manuscript.

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Deshpande, S.N., Nimgaonkar, V.L., Bhatia, T. et al. Ethical Practices and Legal Challenges in Mental Health Research. ABR 12, 87–102 (2020).

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  • Mental health research
  • Decisional capacity
  • Mental health condition
  • Rights of persons with disability
  • Mental health care