Background There is a growing focus on research in Palliative Medicine but the challenges in undertaking research in this area are significant. One of these challenges is often perceived to be the process of obtaining ethical approval from a Research Ethics Committee (REC). The aim of this project was to review the published literature relating to the research ethics process within palliative medicine and relate that to qualitative and quantitative data on this process from students undertaking a Palliative Medicine MSc at Cardiff University.
Methods A literature search was conducted through an OVID database search and hand-searching relevant journal articles. This identified seven articles which were reviewed in order to provide a qualitative assessment of the literature. A semi-structured online questionnaire was designed and distributed via email to all previous palliative medicine MSc candidates at Cardiff University from 2010–2015. Qualitative data was reviewed by hand to explore common themes within the replies.
Results A common theme identified from the published literature was a perception that many RECs take a cautious approach to the palliative patient population. Of the 129 alumni, 114 were contacted and 34 replied. The student’s feedback highlighted that some RECs are unfamiliar with qualitative research and the process is time-consuming. However, 85% of the students surveyed stated that they obtained approval without significant change to the project.
Conclusion This study highlights some of the barriers to research in palliative medicine and shows that students are still faced with variable insight into the nature of this research from RECs. Further study in this area is important to ensure that necessary research within palliative medicine is not avoided due to barriers in the ethical approval process. A strong palliative medicine presence within RECs may be beneficial to the appropriate assessment of research within this field.
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