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Psychiatr Clin North Am. 2009 Jun;32(2):395-411. doi: 10.1016/j.psc.2009.03.007.

Research ethics issues in geriatric psychiatry.

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  • 1Department of Psychiatry, University of California, San Francisco, 401 Parnassus Avenue, Box GPP-0984, San Francisco, CA 94143-0984, USA.


Progress in geriatric psychiatric research may be impeded by lack of attention to collecting evidence relevant to ethical issues. As has been noted for some time, unless proactive work is done to identify, clarify, and remediate ethical challenges (see Table 2 for research directions), deleterious effects on research can result, including research bans, unduly overprotective stances, or inaccurate weighing of risks and benefits of research by review boards. With regard to proxy consent, a number of issues require further study. These include: how state laws address (or fail to address) research involving cognitively impaired individuals and what effects this has on research conduct; how IRBs define and weigh risks and benefits in considering research involving proxy consent; how various stakeholders, including the general public, people with disorders that may impair decision-making capacity, and proxies themselves view proxy consent for research; and to what degree proxies' research decisions reflect what patients themselves would decide. The use of advanced directives as a stand alone method for future consent is fraught with difficulties around adequate informed consent for a particular study; however, future study may clarify if such directives provide surrogates with improved understanding of their relative's overall views of the research enterprise and possibly the types of studies they would be willing to participate in even if they are no longer able to provide their own consent. In depression and suicide research, further work is needed to develop standard procedures for meeting the ethical demands of research while conducting rigorous, crucial research.

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