IV. Ethics Controversies: Case Studies

In this section we will review 3 case studies from oral health clinical research together with a social science research case study.

Let’s start with a bit of background about clinical research involving humans.
Clinical research can be divided into 2 main types [1]:

  • Observational
  • Interventional

In observational research the subjects are observed and then compared. Issues in this kind of research are usually related to confidentiality and privacy. A dental example might be reviewing the records of patients who have had their wisdom teeth removed and determining the risk factors for post-operative infection.

In an interventional (or experimental) study, researchers apply a particular intervention (drug, surgery, restoration type) to the subjects and monitor the outcomes. The intervention group may be compared to a control group (e.g. other interventions or sometimes a placebo). The classic example of this type of research is the clinical trial. Issues for this kind of research often focus on informed consent and minimizing harm.

The following case studies are a mix of both observational and interventional research.

[1]. Ethics and law for the health professions. 2nd ed. Ian Kerridge, Michael Lowe, John McPhee. The Federation Press 2005.