Ethics in Theory and Pseudo-Ethics in Practice

  • Pam CarterEmail author
  • Sarah Chew
  • Elizabeth Sutton


In this chapter we present two cautionary tales from our research in the UK National Health Service. We reflect on our experience of conducting qualitative health research within systems that appear to be designed to ethically govern biomedical research. We show how Good Clinical Practice (GCP) training presumes all researchers only need to be familiar with clinical trials. Then we reveal how some of our participants reported feeling abused when they read a transcript representing their colloquial speech. The research ethics committee monitoring form asked about adverse events in a way that considered risks to bodily harm, so this instance of harm went unrecorded. We consider the implications of ‘ceremonial conformity’ and conclude that systems need to better reflect the realities of fieldwork ethical dilemmas.



We would like to thank our colleagues Dr Carolyn Tarrant and Dr Natalie Armstrong who provided useful comments on a draft of this chapter.


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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of LeicesterLeicesterUK

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