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Psychiatric research: what ethical concerns do LRECs encounter? A postal survey
  1. D P J Osborn1,
  2. K W M Fulford2,*
  1. 1D P J Osborn, Department of Psychiatry and Behavioural Sciences, Royal Free and University College Medical School, London, UK
  2. 2K W M Fulford, Department of Philosophy, University of Warwick, Warwick, UK
  1. Correspondence to:
 Dr DPJ Osborn, Department of Psychiatry and Behavioural Sciences, (Royal Free Campus), Royal Free and University College Medical School, London NW3 2PF, UK;


Background and methods: Psychiatric research can occasionally present particular ethical dilemmas, but it is not clear what kind of problems local research ethics committees (LRECs) actually experience in this field. We aimed to assess the type of problems that committees encounter with psychiatric research, using a postal survey of 211 LRECs.

Results: One hundred and seven (51%) of those written to replied within the time limit. Twenty eight (26%) experienced few problems with psychiatric applications. Twenty six (24%) emphasised the value of a psychiatric expert on the committee. The most common issues raised were informed consent (n=64, 60%) and confidentiality (n=17, 16%). The use of placebos (and washout periods) (n=18, 17%), the validity of psychiatric questionnaires (n=16, 15%) and overuse of psychiatric “jargon” (n=14, 13%) in psychiatric applications also raised concern.

Conclusions: Our results suggest that LRECs have specific concerns regarding methodology, consent, and confidentiality in psychiatric research, and that they find psychiatric input invaluable.

  • ethics committees
  • mental disorders
  • cross-sectional studies
  • research support

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  • * K W M (Bill) Fulford is Honorary Consultant Psychiatrist, Department of Psychiatry, University of Oxford, Oxford, UK