The ethics of non-intervention in a study of patients awaitingcoronary artery bypass surgery

Donna Fitzsimons, Toni McAloon

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)


Background. Nurses conducting clinical research frequently encounter ethicallychallenging situations that require careful analysis if the decisions taken are to be inthe best interests of participants, researchers and society. There is a lack of literaturewhich discusses the ethical aspects of the nurse’s role in clinical research studies.Aim. The aim of this paper is to discuss the ethical conflicts and decisions takenduring a combined qualitative and quantitative study of patients’ experiences whilstawaiting coronary bypass surgery.Discussion. Ethical conflict arose because, despite having gained ethics approval fora non-interventional study, the researcher became concerned for the health of someresearch participants, whose condition was observed to have deteriorated. During thecourse of the study four of the 70 participants died. As a result, changes to the originalresearch protocol were negotiated and subsequently the researcher intervened incases where participants’ clinical condition had worsened.Conclusion. Nurses conducting clinical research studies can face serious ethicaldilemmas, particularly if participants’ health is at risk. This paper demonstrates thepotential for both role conflict and role convergence in nursing research. We contendthat since the roles of researcher and clinician are not mutually exclusive, the interfacebetween the two requires further discussion. The paper may to help inform otherresearchers who struggle with the issue of non-intervention when presented with
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)359-402
JournalJournal of Advanced Nursing
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished (in print/issue) - 2004


  • nursing research
  • role conflict
  • ethics
  • coronary artery bypass surgery
  • waiting lists
  • mortality


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