Researchers from a university intend to investigate the range of substance abuse behaviors among learning impaired individuals. They seek to recruit participants from several substance abuse treatment facilities located in a medium size community. In addition to conducting a medical examination and psychiatric evaluation, a baseline interview will record information on a number of items ranging from alcohol and drug use history, psychosocial evaluation, review of socioeconomic factors, review of eligibility for public health, welfare, employment, and educational assistance programs.
A potential challenge to the investigators is ensuring the confidentiality of participants. Given the amount and range of data collected and the small size of the pool of eligible patients (learning impaired) receiving treatment, it is conceivable that patients could be identified.
This conflict appears to pit the obligation to protect the privacy of participants versus the need to collect data adequate to more fully investigate the research problem. The dilemma tests the ethical principle of respect for persons (confidentiality) vs. beneficence (risk/benefit assessment).
Taking the role of the researcher, decide to act on one of the following options: