Values and Concepts of Ethics for Research Involving Humans

2. Bringing About More Good Than Harm

In an ideal world, research might always ‘do well’ (i.e. beneficence) and ‘not do harm’ (i.e. non-maleficence). However, in today’s world, a more realistic goal for research is to try to bring about more good than harm while avoiding unnecessary or disproportionate harm. Any harm caused by the research should be outweighed by the good that researchers hope to achieve. Thus, researchers should optimise the potential benefits of their research (e.g. health, safety, knowledge, satisfaction), and try to minimise the risks of unwanted effects associated with the research (e.g. reduced health, pain, exploitation, inconvenience, emotional burden).

Researchers have to take these principles into account when designing their projects in order to ensure that all risks have been minimised to the greatest extent possible and that remaining risks are justified in the context of the question being studied.

In conducting their review, RECs should pay particular attention to the well-being of research participants. However, they should also consider the potential benefits and risks for others, including those who may benefit from the results of the research.