Ethics in Demographic Survey Research: Is the Minimal Risk Approach Sufficient in the Indian Context?

Mala Ramanathan, Sree Chitra Tirunal Institute for Medical Sciences and Technology

In the Indian context, health research involving human subjects is guided by two guidelines, the ICMR guidelines for biomedical research and the NCESSRH guidelines for social science research in health. These guidelines list four major principles of ethical research that are relevant for the protection of human subjects; the principles of autonomy, non-malficience, beneficence and justice. However, much of demographic research in India consists of surveys that are considered minimal risk research and therefore subjected to expedited review processes. Is the assumption of minimal risk tenable in all circumstances? This paper attempts to explore the potential for harm to human subjects who participate in such surveys in terms of violation of these four major ethical principles. It also proposes some possible remedies in keeping with the ideas based on the Certificates of Confidentiality under the U.S. – Common Federal Regulations and the Census of India Act of 1948.

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Presented in Session 97: Confidentiality, Privacy, and Ethical Issues in Demographic Data