The Juvenile Justice Professional's Guide to
Human Subjects Protection and the IRB Process
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Ethical Principles of the Belmont Report
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Ethical principles guide laws and regulations that protect human subjects

Juvenile justice professionals must apply the ethical principles of Respect for Persons, Beneficence, and Justice when youth and/or their families are the subjects of research studies.

The ethical principles of the Belmont Report shaped the development of the Federal laws and regulations governing human subjects research. These principles, Respect for Persons, Beneficence, and Justice are the standards on which the Common Rule is based and research studies are evaluated.
  • Respect for Persons requires that all persons be treated with autonomy. The Belmont Report implies that individuals must consent to participate in research and that their privacy must be respected. The Common Rule, however, recognizes certain conditions under which informed consent may be waived. For example, an informed consent waiver is applicable when consent is not practicable, such as the case with most research utilizing secondary data. When circumstances necessitate consent, special consideration and protection must be given to individuals with diminished mental capacity, allowing them the opportunity to participate in research, but taking additional steps to ensure informed consent. The potential research participant must first comprehend what is involved in the study and then voluntarily agree to participate with the understanding that there is the option to withdraw from the research study at any time.

  • Beneficence requires the researcher to “maximize possible benefits and minimize possible harms.” It is the investigator’s responsibility to protect subjects from harm and to make certain the participant benefits from participation. The benefits of research must always outweigh the potential risks.

  • Justice requires fair treatment and selection of all subjects. Investigators should not choose participants because they are convenient or are easy to manipulate. Subject selection should not be determined by race or gender nor should any person or group of individuals such as prisoners, children, or the poor be systematically selected or excluded except when there is a valid scientific or ethical reason. Investigators have an ethical obligation to uphold Justice by applying fair criteria to decisions about persons who should be included or excluded from a particular research study.

Ethical decisions about Human Subjects must be based on the principles of Respect for Persons, Beneficence, and Justice.

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