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Ethics And Harm Avoidance In Research Methods

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Q1. Ethical considerations in research with respect to Milgram (1963) and Zimbardo (1971).

While conducting research-work, the researcher should be guided by a code of ethics that he/she has to follow in order to ensure that the research is thoroughly done, above board, and will yield the best outcome (Yanow & Schwartz-Shea, 2018). Milgram (1963) and Zimbardo’s (1971) research work was aimed at finding out if human behavior was dictated by the social environment under which a person is occupying or by their dictate (Ticheloven & Willems, 2013). The two research-works which involved the use of human subjects had the following ethical shortcomings: –

– Both experiments used deception to achieve their goals (Karnani, McFerran, & Mukhopadhyay, 2016). In Zimbardo’s experiment, the subjects acting as prisoners were arrested at their homes and were not warned of the emotional distress they were bound to go through in the course of the experiment (Ticheloven & Willems, 2013). In Milgram’s case, the participants acting as teachers were deceived that they were administering real shocks to the student participants. Both of these scenarios were clear cases of deception which go against full disclosure of the research process to all participants (Miller, Goyal, & Wice, 2015). This explains why both experiments, although billed as groundbreaking, have attracted a lot of criticism from different quarters.

– They both failed to protect the participants from the emotionally strenuous situations that occurred in the course of the experiment (McBeth, Clemons, Husmann, Kusko, & Gaarden, 2013). Both of the experiments were structured in such a way that they had to put the participants through emotional strife in order to achieve the desired end (Miller, Goyal, & Wice, 2015). In Milgram’s experiment, the participants acting as teachers had to go suppress their emotions as they administered an electric shock to their “students”. The researcher either deliberately chose to hide that information from the participants or he didn’t anticipate the high level of emotional breakdown that occurred (Miller, Goyal, & Wice, 2015). To protect participants or inform them of any anticipated stressful situations in the course of research is very important so that they can decide if to proceed with the research or not (McBeth, Clemons, Husmann, Kusko, & Gaarden, 2013).

– They failed to give the participants the option of stopping/discontinuing with the research if they felt it was emotionally or physically affecting them (Bocchiaro & Zimbardo, 2017). In Milgram’s case, the “teacher” participants were prodded to proceed using words like “please continue”, “the experiment requires you to continue” and “It is necessary that you continue” while in Zimbardo’s case, they only released one prisoner who was under extreme emotional breakdown but never indicated to the others who were also under emotional strain that they could leave the experiment at will (Dixon & Quirke, 2018). This goes against the principles of good research-work which states that human subjects are free to leave if they feel the experiment is taking a toll on their emotional or physical wellbeing (Karnani, McFerran, & Mukhopadhyay, 2016).

– In both research-works, the after-effects of the experience were felt by the subjects long after the researches were over. Even though both pieces of research performed debriefs of the subjects after the experiments were over, signs of emotional and psychological strife lingered long after, affecting the subject’s ability to smoothly continue with their lives (Haslam & Reicher, 2017). A well thought out research procedure should leave the participants emotionally and physically unscathed and any incidents of emotional/physical scarring should be anticipated and communicated to the subjects before they agree to partake in the research (Karnani, McFerran, & Mukhopadhyay, 2016).

– By subjecting the participants to all the above emotional, physical, and psychological strife, both experiments breached their contracts with the subjects by not adhering to each and every clause of the agreement (Perlstadt, 2013). This is a gross violation of research guidelines which state that the researcher has to stick to all the terms and conditions of the contract as it is signed between him/her and the participant (Bocchiaro & Zimbardo, 2017).

Q2. The medical profession must take the lead role in society’s battle to solve the obesity crisis.

The obesity issue is filled with a conflict of opinions and proclamations, with different players in the debate about who should be considered obese and what measures should be taken to handle the issue pulling in all kinds of directions (Smeulers, 2020). With the Department of health stating that one in every three kids is overweight before they begin their elementary education, there is a call for the government to start food rationing by limiting the number of meat products and increasing the number of fruits and vegetable’s rations by the young ones (Bocchiaro & Zimbardo, 2017). Proponents of this argument say that since people, especially kids cannot be forced to exercise in order to cut weight, the government must come up with a food rationing program that encourages the intake of vegetable/fruit diet and limits intake of excessive meat/junk foods (Karnani, McFerran, & Mukhopadhyay, 2016). However, some argue that targeting all obese people for food rationing indiscriminately is the wrong way to go (McBeth, Clemons, Husmann, Kusko, & Gaarden, 2013). They suggest that instead, the government should focus and address the material needs of individuals. It should for instance address poverty which makes people eat junk foods that are cheaper and convenient and providing safe spaces for exercising which would encourage obese people willing to exercise to do so without being afraid of their security (Ticheloven & Willems, 2013).

Yet another group of actors in the health sector who are proposing that overfeeding children to a point of making them obese should be classified as a form of child neglect (McBeth, Clemons, Husmann, Kusko, & Gaarden, 2013). They even go on to suggest that such children should be placed under child support homes because the parents are contributing to a factor that poses a health danger to the children. Opponents of this move argue that obesity is purely a public health problem and should be treated as such (McBeth, Clemons, Husmann, Kusko, & Gaarden, 2013).

However, since obesity is a result of poor lifestyles, poor eating habits thus becoming overweight and lack of exercise, people should be encouraged to not only eat healthily but also develop an active lifestyle of doing regular exercise (Karnani, McFerran, & Mukhopadhyay, 2016). Initially, obesity was known to be a disease of the old and the rich, however, that has changed. According to proven researches, this disease can affect anyone of any age whether rich or poor (McBeth, Clemons, Husmann, Kusko, & Gaarden, 2013). Thus, people all over the world should observe healthy choices and lifestyles. It is also proven than obesity is the center of many chronic diseases like hypertension, diabetes, stroke, cancer, and other cardiovascular-related diseases (Miller, Goyal, & Wice, 2015).

The Royal College of pediatrics and child health proposes a thorough and coordinated approach to curb obesity (Karnani, McFerran, & Mukhopadhyay, 2016). It suggests that any approach must be taken at all levels of governance; national, local, communal, and individual. All stakeholders must be involved in the formulation of policy to fight obesity and suggested actions must be structured to last for a long time and be sustainable since adapting to slimmer lifestyle is not an easy task and can only succeed if the necessary support and framework are offered (Haslam & Reicher, 2017). The national government, it offers, should partner with local governments and communities to create policies, initiatives, activities, and structures (playgrounds, training tracks, exercising halls) (Smeulers, 2020). Obese individuals should be encouraged to start exercising and dieting through participating in group and support activities which make them feel encouraged as part of a team (McBeth, Clemons, Husmann, Kusko, & Gaarden, 2013).

There is yet another group of the population who are against all the measures and policies been formulated to combat obesity, terming them as much ado about nothing (Ticheloven & Willems, 2013). They argue that while it is true that Obesity has increased over the decades, the harmful effects of obesity proffered by health experts and the National Institute of Health are not scientifically proven (Karnani, McFerran, & Mukhopadhyay, 2016). It argues that the fact that the increase in the aging population been witnessed is a sure sign that obesity is not necessarily a cause of life-threatening diseases that cause early death (Bocchiaro & Zimbardo, 2017). They also argue that those who promote and legislate the slim lifestyle through eating low-calorie diets and exercising are serving interests of certain companies which manufacture products associated with this lifestyle (Karnani, McFerran, & Mukhopadhyay, 2016).

They also argue that without concrete proof that these diseases are caused by obesity, forcing obese people to adapt to uncomfortable and unpalatable eating habits should be treated as a form of human rights abuse and should be avoided as such (McBeth, Clemons, Husmann, Kusko, & Gaarden, 2013).


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Dixon, S., & Quirke, L. (2018). What’s the harm? The coverage of ethics and harm avoidance in research methods textbooks. Teaching Sociology, 5, 132-156.

Haslam, S. A., & Reicher, S. D. (2017). 50 years of “obedience to authority”: From blind conformity to engaged followership. Annual Review of Law and Social Science, 4(11), 132-167.

Karnani, A., McFerran, B., & Mukhopadhyay, A. (2016). The obesity crisis as market failure: An analysis of systemic causes and corrective mechanisms. Journal of the Association for Consumer Research, 12(5), 243-435.

McBeth, M. K., Clemons, R. S., Husmann, M. A., Kusko, E., & Gaarden, A. ( 2013). The social construction of a crisis: Policy narratives and contemporary US obesity policy. Risk, Hazards & Crisis in Public Policy, 213-256.

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Smeulers, A. (2020). Milgram Revisited: Can We still Use Milgram’s ‘Obedience to Authority’Experiments to Explain Mass Atrocities after the Opening of the Archives? Review Essay. Journal of Perpetrator Research, 3(7), 132-145.

Ticheloven, A. H., & Willems, M. M. (2013). The development of ethics in medical and social sciences in the last half of the twentieth century. Social Cosmos, 3(1), 56-78.

Yanow, D., & Schwartz-Shea, P. (2018). Framing” Deception” and” Covertness” in Research: Do Milgram, Humphreys, and Zimbardo Justify Regulating Social Science Research Ethics? In Forum Qualitative Sozialforschung/Forum: Qualitative Social Research, 32-56.

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