The SAGE Handbook of Healthcare Ethics is an influential collection of work by leading scholars on the fundamental and emerging themes which define healthcare ethics. This authoritative Handbook brings together experts with backgrounds in philosophy, sociology, law, public policy and the health professions and reflects the increasing impact of globalization and the dynamic advances in the fields of bioscience and genetics, which keep ethics at the centre of debates about the future direction of healthcare. Combining international and interdisciplinary perspectives, the Handbook provides a cutting-edge account of debates in five key areas: Health Care Ethics in an Era of Globalization; Beginning and End of Life; Vulnerable Populations; Research Ethics and Technologies; Public Health and Human Rights

Chapter 20: Vulnerability in Healthcare and Research Ethics

Vulnerability in Healthcare and Research Ethics

Vulnerability in healthcare and research ethics

Vulnerability as Encountered in the Bioethics Literature

Commonly encountered mechanisms to protect the interests of patients and research participants include standard practices such as securing consent, risk-benefit assessments, the protection of confidentiality and an ethics review. However, certain individuals considered particularly ‘vulnerable’ are normally afforded special attention within bioethical frameworks. With the changing face of healthcare and biomedical research in a globalized world, the term ‘vulnerable’ as well as its adequate definition and scope have increasingly come under close scrutiny.

Some scholars have proposed moving away from a narrow — and often unclear — use of the term in favour of a comprehensive understanding of vulnerability, reflecting human finitude and fragility (Rendtorff, 2002). However, many insist ...

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