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Case 55. Research by Students


Jane Gates, a graduate student, wants to assess cultural differences in response to pain in cancer patients for her dissertation. Vincent Parodi, her dissertation supervisor, suggests that Gates contact an oncologist at a nearby medical school to help recruit cancer patients for the study. In consultation with the oncologist, Gates estimates the number of patients she might be able to interview and the "best" way to contact them. She successfully defends her dissertation proposal and then learns that she must submit it to the medical school institutional review board (IRB) before starting the project. The IRB challenges the merit of the study and whether the interviews which Gates plans will unnecessarily burden patients who are seriously ill. The study is seen by the IRB as largely a replication of previous work on only a small number of patients that will not likely result in new generalizable knowledge. Gates is angry and feels that her work is being unnecessarily obstructed by an IRB with a "medical mentality". She decides to go somewhere else to recruit participants.


  1. What is the responsibility of the department in which Gates is a student and her supervisor, Professor Parodi, to assist her in planning and implementing the study for her dissertation?
  2. Has Gates violated any ethical principles in deciding to go somewhere else to conduct her study?

Reflect on the above questions and form your own answers before clicking the discussion key to review the commentary provided with this case.