Gaining ethical approvals to undertake sexual health research with young people in the UK: Applying a 'Children's Rights Based Approach'

Michelle Templeton, Maria Lohan, Carmel Kelly, Laura Lundy

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This paper (co-written with Dr Maria Lohan, Dr Carmel Kelly & Professor Laura Lundy) will describe the ethical review process to undertake health research in the UK, and explain an approach that can help researchers deal with ethical and methodological dilemmas in their research. Ethical review is necessary to ensure researchers and participants are protected, yet the requirement to ‘pass’ numerous committees may be challenging particularly for health researchers who work with vulnerable groups and sensitive topics. The inclusion of these groups/topics is crucial if health researchers are to understand health disparities and implement appropriate interventions with health benefits for vulnerable populations. It is proposed that to overcome ethical and methodological challenges and pitfalls, researchers must implement strategies that advocate for, and increase the participation of, vulnerable populations in health research. A ‘children’s rights based approach’ using participatory methodology will be described that draws on the jurisprudence of international law, (United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, 1989) and provides a framework that may empower ethics committees to carry out their function confidently. The role of the researcher, framed within the context of doctoral level study, will be reviewed in terms of the investment required and benefits of utilising this approach. It will be argued that adopting this approach with vulnerable groups, not only guarantees their meaningful participation in the research process and permits their voices to be heard, but also offers ethics committees an internationally agreed upon legal framework, ratified by their governing States, from which to fulfil their obligations and resolve their ethical dilemmas. Increasing the representation and participation of vulnerable groups in health research can inform the development of health policy and practice based on ‘insider knowledge’ that better engages with and more adequately reflects their specific needs. This is likely to yield numerous health, social and economic benefits for all of society through the delivery of more equitable, effective and sustainable services.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 27 Aug 2014
EventEuropean Sociological Association (RN16 pre-conference) - Helsinki, Finland
Duration: 27 Aug 2014 → …


ConferenceEuropean Sociological Association (RN16 pre-conference)
Period27/08/2014 → …

Bibliographical note

ESA RN16 pre-conference PhD workshop entitled ‘Ethical and methodological pitfalls in health research’, on 27th August 2014 Helsinki, Finland.


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