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Date(s) - 05/09/2014
12:15 pm - 1:00 pm

The Royal

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Beyond consent: Revisiting Notions of vulnerability in psychiatric research


When: Friday September 5, 2014

Time:  12:15pm to 1:00 pm

Where:  Auditorium, The Royal, 1145 Carling Avenue

Presenter:  Dr. Emily Bell, Researcher at the Neuroethics Research Unit, Institut de recherches cliniques de Montréal (IRCM).


Vulnerability is an important notion in research ethics used to assess the ethical inclusion of participants in research trials. However, applied broadly or haphazardly, the concept of vulnerability can also lead to paternalistic views or practices that limit the participation of psychiatric patients in research. Although an abundance of empirical evidence challenges assumptions that psychiatric patients as a whole lack capacity to participate to research studies, perceived deficits in the ability to provide informed consent seem to have played a central role in defining the vulnerability of psychiatric participants. In fact, a frequent question is whether and how patients with psychiatric conditions can ethically be enrolled in research or in more invasive medical trials. Thus, vulnerability is often understood as an attribute inherent to a participant by nature of a diagnosed condition (such as a psychiatric condition). Notions of vulnerability in the domain of psychiatric research ethics deserve to be challenged and better examined. I will propose an expanded view of vulnerability which moves beyond a focus on consent and the intrinsic attributes of participants towards the shared contributions of research participants and investigators in the context of research. In addition, I will offer specific suggestions for how relational aspects and the dynamic features of vulnerability could be more fully captured in current discussions and research practices.


Learning Objectives:

  1. Describe key controversies surrounding the application of the notion of vulnerability in research ethics
  2. Identify empirical evidence of psychiatric participants’ perspectives about research and research ethics boards’ beliefs surrounding the capacity of psychiatric patients participating in research
  3. Evaluate an approach that defines vulnerability in relational terms and discuss how current research practices could better reflect a relational vulnerability

Who Should Attend:

•          Clinicians

•          Researchers

•          Allied Health Professionals

•          General public


Registration: This free public lecture will be given in English. Lunch will NOT be provided. Please confirm your attendance to Jennifer Hayes at 613.722.6521 ext. 6537 or jennifer.hayes@theroyal.ca.  To participate in this event by videoconference, contact your local OTN Telemedicine Coordinator to help reserve a room and system at your site that is videoconference enabled. The Royal’s Research Lecture Series is a self- approved group learning activity (Section 1) as defined by the Maintenance of Certification Program of the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada.