Pieper, I. & Thomson, C.J.H. (2016) Beneficence as a Principle in Human Research. Monash Bioethics Review. 34: 117. https://doi.org/10.1007/s40592-016-0061-3
A Series on the Four Principles of the Australian National Statement on Ethics Conduct in Human Research
In this issue of the Research Ethics Monthly, Ian Pieper and Colin Thomson continue their series of short summaries of each of their four co-authored articles on the principles that underpin the Australian National Statement, namely, research merit and integrity, justice, beneficence and respect.
The articles were originally published in the Monash Bioethics Review and remain available to subscription holders to that journal. The publisher, Springer, has generously agreed to place each of the four articles on Free Access for one month after the corresponding short summary is published in the Research Ethics Monthly. Last month they revisited their paper entitled The value of respect in human research ethics: a conceptual analysis and a practical guide. This month they revisit the paper exploring the principle of beneficence in the context of human research. The full paper can be found here.
Beneficence is one of the four values and principles on which the National Statement on Ethical Conduct in Human Research (National Statement) is founded. A requirement for beneficence to be demonstrably present in human research is not a uniquely Australian consideration but is found in many of the human research ethics guidance documents from around the world. Beneficence is an important consideration in that it mirrors the altruistic nature of the voluntary nature of participation in human research.
Being a positive virtue, beneficence is a moral ideal and considerations of it as a principle during the design and ethical assessment of a research project can be seen as subjective. This can make beneficence difficult to identify within research proposals. As a principle which promotes good or charitable outcomes, over and above those imposed by duty, it is not merely synonymous with non malfeasance. Beneficence is the provision of benefits over and above the costs associated with the burdens of research.
This paper provides some clarity for researchers and Human Research Ethics Committee (HREC) members on the role that beneficence plays in discussions about human research ethics. While applying beneficence in human research does involve consideration of risks and benefits to participants, consideration should also extend to individuals, groups, and communities not directly involved in the research
This paper also provides both researchers and HREC members with practical guidance on the application of beneficence in the design, review and conduct of ethical human research. This guidance does not consider beneficence in isolation but places it within the context of the other principles and the National Statement as a whole.
Ian and Colin have produced an activity sheet to accompany this post. It can be found in the subscribers’ area (https://www.patreon.com/ahrecs). A subscription of only USD15/month (approx AUD21/month) provides access to a growing library of activity items, reflections on papers and news, and other resource items. At least two items are added to the library every month. These are shared on a creative commons basis, so you are free to use them internally without otherwise engaging AHRECS. These items would ordinarily cost more than AUD500. So becoming an AHRECS patron not only helps AHRECS stay a constructive voice for change it’s a way to get access some terrific items for a great price.
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This post may be cited as:
Pieper, I & Thomson C. (23 November 2018) Beneficence as a Principle in Human Research. Research Ethics Monthly. Retrieved from: https://ahrecs.com/human-research-ethics/beneficence-as-a-principle-in-human-research
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