As guidelines for neonatal resuscitation evolve from a growing evidence base, clinicians must ensure that practice is closely aligned with the available evidence, based on methodologically sound and ethically conducted research. This paper reviews ethical, legal and risk-management issues arising during the design of a quality-assurance project to make video recordings of neonatal resuscitations after high-risk deliveries. The issues, which affect patients, researchers, staff and the hospital at large, include the following: 1) Informed consent for research involving emergency procedures is often not possible, for lack of time to provide sufficient information. The mental capacity of the subject or parent may be compromised by the impending emergency, and freedom of choice is threatened by the time pressure to consent. 2) Video recording of the inevitable medical errors raises issues of whether participating staff may be identifiable and accountable, affecting their willingness to participate in such research. The approach to staff participation and identification is reviewed. 3) The use of video data for education threatens the privacy of research subjects. The ethics of maintaining privacy is balanced with the ethics of using the data to improve practice of resuscitation. 4) The research subjects (patients, or the staff whose performance is being monitored) must be defined. 5) There are legal and ethical aspects of management and ownership of data. 6) The role of the Human Research Ethics Committee in protecting the research subject and possibly the medicolegal interests of the hospital is discussed. This paper reviews the literature and discusses the issues.
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Competing interests: None declared.
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