Ethical challenges in research on post-abortion care with adolescents: experiences of researchers in Zambia

Global Bioethics 31 (1):104-119 (2020)
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ABSTRACT Post-abortion care (PAC) research is increasingly being conducted in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) to help reduce the high burden of unsafe abortion. This study aims to help address the evidence gap about ethical challenges that researchers in LMICs face when carrying out PAC research with adolescents. Employing an explorative qualitative approach, the study identified several ethics challenges encountered by PAC researchers in Zambia, including those associated with seeking ethics and regulatory approvals at institutional and national levels. Persistent stigma around abortion and community perceptions that PAC studies encourage adolescents to seek abortion affected adolescents’ right to exercise their autonomy and to make decisions as well as exposed adolescents to social stigmatization risks. Challenges with recruitment was reported to result in abandoning of studies, thereby undermining development of PAC services that are more responsive to adolescent needs. Training needs identified included knowledge of best practices for conducting and disseminating PAC research. Strategies for addressing the ethical challenges included trust building and using less value-laden terminology when seeking permission and consent. It is essential to the future of PAC research in Zambia and globally that these important challenges be addressed through the development of comprehensive ethics guidance.



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