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Standard of informed consent

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Professional Psychology: Debating Chamber · Psychology Journals · Psychologists



Psychologists should:

  • Ensure that clients, particularly children and vulnerable adults, are given ample opportunity to understand the nature, purpose, and anticipated consequences of any professional services or research participation, so that they may give informed consent to the extent that their capabilities allow.
  • Seek to obtain the informed consent of all clients to whom professional services or research participation are offered.
  • Keep adequate records of when, how and from whom consent was obtained.
  • Remain alert to the possibility that those people for whom professional services or research participation are contemplated may lack legal capacity for informed consent.
  • When informed consent cannot be obtained from clients, no duly authorised representative can he identified and a pressing need for the provision of professional services is indicated, consult When feasible a person well-placed to appreciate the potential reactions of clients (such as a family member, or current or recent provider of care or services) for assistance in determining what may be in their best interests.
  • When tine specific nature of contemplated professional services precludes obtaining informed consent from clients or their duly authorised representatives, obtain specific approval from appropriate institutional ethics authorities before proceeding. Where no institutional ethics authority exists, peers and colleagues should be consulted.
  • When the specific nature of research precludes obtaining informed consent from clients or their duly authorised representatives, obtain specific approval from appropriate institutional ethics authorities before proceeding. Where no institutional ethics authority exists, peers and colleagues should be consulted.
  • Take particular care when seeking the informed consent of detained persons, ill the light of the degree to which circumstances of detention tray affect the ability of such clients to consent freely.
  • Unless informed consent has been obtained, restrict research based upon observations of public behaviour to those situations in which persons being studied would reasonably expect to be observed by strangers, with reference to local cultural values and to the privacy of persons Who, even while in a public space, may believe they are unobserved.
  • Obtain supplemental informed consent as circumstances indicate, when professional services or research occur over an extended period of tittle, or when there is significant change in the nature or focus of such activities.
  • Withhold information from clients only in exceptional circumstances when necessary to preserve the integrity of research or the efficacy of professional services, or in the public: interest and specifically consider any additional safeguards required for the preservation of client welfare.
  • Avoid intentional deception of clients unless:
    • deception is necessary in exceptional circa stanches to preserve the integrity of research or the efficacy of professional services;
    • any additional safeguards required for the preservation of client welfare are specifically considered;
    • the nature of the deception is disclosed to clients at the earliest feasible opportunity.



NB The above standards are based on the Code of Ethics and Conduct published by BPSin 2006.

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