Ethical Issues Relevant to the Assessment of Suicide Risk in Nonclinical Research Settings
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BACKGROUND: Our laboratory recently confronted this issue while conducting research with undergraduate students at the University of Waterloo (UW). Although our main objective was to examine cognitive and genetic features of individuals with schizotypal personality disorder (SPD), the study protocol also entailed the completion of various self-report measures to identify participants deemed at increased risk for suicide. AIMS AND METHODS: This paper seeks to review and discuss the relevant ethical guidelines and legislation that bear upon a psychologist's obligation to further assess and intervene when research participants reveal that they are at increased risk for suicide. RESULTS AND CONCLUSIONS: In the current paper we argue that psychologists are ethically impelled to assess and appropriately intervene in cases of suicide risk, even when such risk is revealed within a research context. We also discuss how any such obligation may potentially be modulated by the research participant's expectations of the role of a psychologist, within such a context. Although the focus of the current paper is on the ethical obligations of psychologists, specifically those practicing within Canada, the relevance of this paper extends to all regulated health professionals conducting research in nonclinical settings.
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