Research ethics in practice: An analysis of ethical issues encountered in qualitative health research with mental health service users and relatives.
The ethics review of qualitative health research poses various challenges that are due to a mismatch between the current practice of ethics review and the nature of qualitative methodology. The process of obtaining ethics approval for a study by a research ethics committee before the start of a research study has been described as “procedural ethics” and the identification and handling of ethical issues by researchers during the research process as “ethics in practice.” While some authors dispute and other authors defend the use of procedural ethics in relation to qualitative health research, there is general agreement that it needs to be supplemented with ethics in practice. This article aims to provide an illustration of research ethics in practice by reflecting on the ways in which we identified and addressed ethical and methodological issues that arose in the context of an interview study with mental health service users and relatives. We describe the challenges we faced and the solutions we found in relation to the potential vulnerability of research participants, the voluntariness of consent, the increase of participant access and the heterogeneity of the sample, the protection of privacy and internal confidentiality, and the consideration of personal and contextual factors.