Projects

Rectorate's Programme "RUB International"

International Visiting Fellowship Programme in Medical Ethics Bochum

Prof. Dr. Dr. Vollmann

EQUALISE

Improving the ethical review of qualitative health research

Funding: 
EQUALISE is funded by the FoRUM program of the Medical Faculty of the Ruhr University Bochum.

Project Duration:
2021-2022

Summary:
While qualitative health research is gaining relevance, institutional review boards rely mostly on ethical guidelines tailored to quantitative clinical studies when evaluating applications for ethical approval. Due to discrepancies between these guidelines and qualitative research approaches, qualitative health researchers encounter various ethical challenges and practical hurdles in obtaining ethical approval for their research. Special challenges arise in the case of qualitative health research with so-called ‘vulnerable’ persons. This can lead to an inappropriate exclusion of ‘vulnerable’ people from research and an inadequate evaluation of clinical interventions and care models in various patient groups.The aim of the research project is to improve the quality of the ethical evaluation of qualitative health research. To achieve this aim, we will

  • analyze the legal requirements and ethical guidelines for health-related research with humans,
  • determine to what extent these are suitable for the ethical evaluation of qualitative health research with ‘vulnerable’ persons,
  • identify challenges and hurdles in the current ethical review practice,
  • develop a pilot version of a manual for the ethical review of qualitative health research in collaboration with qualitative health researchers and members of institutional review boards.

Project's staff:

 

The Ethics of Livetracking Applications in Connection with SARS-CoV 2

This project is hosting a blog.

Funding: 
ELISA is funded by the German Federal Ministry of Research and Education.

Project Duration:
2020-2021

Summary:
Given the various measures that are currently being taken internationally to contain SARS-CoV-2, the project will specifically investigate how livetracking applications are evaluated (descriptive level), and under what conditions they are morally justified (normative level). “Anti-corona apps”, based on “contact and proximity tracing”, focus on the location determination of the users and the monitoring of various vital indicators, which, based on algorithms, identify symptoms that may be relevant in the case of coronavirus infection. While some consider individualized body-monitoring to be the ideal way to containing the pandemic, other groups recognize various risks. Against this background, the project will carry out an empirically informed and ethically sound balancing of interests. With a view to the politically forced goal of decelerating the spread of SARS-CoV-2 in order to relieve the healthcare system, it shall, as a first step, reconstruct a heterogeneous atmospheric picture and, as part of a qualitative study, explore two fields of discourse: (a) the “discourse of medical/health professionals” (incl. medical associations, hospital personnel, professional associations) and (b) the “discourse of critical experts” (incl. scientists, IT specialists, activists). In the second step, a normative assessment will clarify under which circumstances and in which situations the collection of clinically relevant data can be ethically vindicated and is morally justifiable under the premise of informed user consent.

In order to implement empirically informed ethics, expert interviews are conducted employing a semi-structured interview sheet and combining these with normative analysis. The research goal is to achieve the status quo for the evaluation of site-based monitoring of vital signs and thus to develop – in addition to scientific publications – recommendations for ethically justified applications and to make the results available to professionals, political decision-makers, and the public.

Project's staff:

 

In cooperation with:

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Aging between Participation and Simulation – Ethical Dimensions of Socially Assistive Technologies (DigitAs)

International Conference for Young Scholars

This project hosts a blog.

Funding:
German Federal Ministry of Education and Research

Project Duration:
2018 - 2019

Summary:
In future, an increasing number of elderly people will be reliant on the healthcare system. The looming resource crisis will especially affect rights to societal participation, wellbeing and autonomy of the elderly or the impaired. Social assistive technologies such as robot companions or smart screen assistants promise to preserve individual rights by supporting their users in their daily environment. They offer emotional as well as physical care and support. However, social assistive technologies raise difficult ethical questions in regard to their ability to deception. Social assistive devices often create illusions and simulations. They can trick their users into social-like empathic relationships or manipulate their surroundings and beliefs. Isn’t that morally questionable? Should we use such technologies in elderly care? And if we do: How should we use it? In this interdisciplinary conference, the use of simulation and deception in social assistive technologies in care and medicine will be reflected from ethical, legal and socio-cultural perspectives.

Project's staff:

 

In cooperation with:

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HumanMeD

Human rights and mental health: Implementing the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in mental health care - An international and interdisciplinary workshop

Funding:
HumanMeD is funded by the German Ministry for Education and Research (BMBF).

Project Duration:
2018 - 2020

Summary:
The United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in 2006 and entered into force in 2008. By now, 177 states parties have ratified the convention. The implementation of the CRPD will have far-reaching consequences for the provision of health care for persons with mental disorders. This workshop brings together early career scholars, experts, policy-makers, service users and other stakeholders from Germany, Ireland and the United Kingdom to critically assess the implementation process of the CRPD in these jurisdictions. The central question it addresses is how the CRPD can be implemented in the context of health care so as to promote the autonomy of persons with mental disorders and guarantee their equal treatment.

The workshop pursues the following aims:

  • Defining the basic concepts and outlining the ethical and legal framework
  • Determining whether the provisions for involuntary commitment and involuntary treatment in the respective jurisdictions constitute discrimination on the basis of disability
  • Assessing the opportunities and risks of supported decision-making
  • Making recommendations for the implementation of the CRPD in the context of mental health care

Project's staff:

 

Ergebnisse der Klausurwoche sind erschienen im Themenheft Human Rights and Mental Health in Frontiers in Psychiatry.


SALUS (BMBF Research Group)

The ethics of coercion: Striking a balance between autonomy, well-being and security in psychiatric practice

Funding:
HSALUS is funded by the German Ministry for Education and Research (BMBF) as an independent research group in the field of ethical, legal and social aspects of modern life sciences.

Project Duration:
2018 - 2024

The SALUS project is carried out in close cooperation with the Department of Psychiatry, Psychotherapy and Preventive Medicine, LWL University Hospital, Ruhr University Bochum.

Summary:
The use of coercion in the treatment of persons with mental disorders is one of the major ethical controversies in psychiatry. The aim of SALUS is to determine whether considerations of well-being and security can justify coercive interventions and to investigate whether potential conflicts between autonomy, well-being and security can be prevented by considering the latter two values in the advance care planning process. To this end, we will

  • identify consequences of recent autonomy-enhancing policies for the well-being of service users and the security of third parties,
  • examine the attitudes of mental health professionals, service users and the general public toward coercion in psychiatry,
  • determine conditions under which coercive interventions can be morally justified,
  • improve psychiatric advance directives by including considerations of well-being and security in the advance care planning process, and
  • assess and evaluate the opportunities and challenges of self-binding directives.

The SALUS project takes a bottom-up approach in which conceptual and normative analyses are informed by and closely interlinked with qualitative and quantitative empirical research.

Project's staff:

Project website:

https://bochum-salus-project.com/


Ethical Expertise in Clinical Practice

An empirical-ethics study on normative concepts and value conflicts in psychiatry

 

Funding:
This project is funded by FoRUM Forschungsförderung

Project Duration:
2017-2019

Summary:
Ethical challenges are often part of the clinical work in psychiatry. Examples are the assessment of the ability to consent or coercive measures. Advice from ethical experts (e.g. through ethics committees or ethical case consultations) is increasingly becoming part of psychiatric practice in such cases. However, the understanding of the "ethical expertise" on which this is based is largely unclear. With regard to the conception of ethical expertise, very different positions have been taken in the philosophical discussion, but their value and validity is difficult to see in the application-oriented discussion. This research project aims to define and contextualize the concept of ethical expertise for psychiatric practice. In a first methodological step, this will be done by means of an empirical-qualitative reconstruction of the conditions under which ethical expertise in psychiatry arises and is required. For this purpose, physicians and nurses of the psychiatric setting are interviewed under a qualitative-empirical research approach, and additional observations are made. Second, the insights thus gained will be linked back to the theoretical discussion in order to enable the further development of the concept of ethical expertise for psychiatric practice on an empirical and theoretically sound basis.

Project's staff:

 

In cooperation with:

That's sick, isn't it?

An interdisciplinary research training project in psychiatry

Funding:
This Project is funded by INstudies PLUS (German Ministry of Education and Research)

Project Duration:
2017 - 2020

Summary:
What is actually "normal" and what is "mentally ill"? This interdisciplinary research training project addresses social, professional and ethical challenges in dealing with - and defining - mental illness. The project uses a research training methodology and an approach of interdisciplinary peer learning to provide students of medicine, social sciences and philosophy with the  opportunity to take an externally critical look at psychiatric-medical practice and to reflect on the normative and social criteria for defining mental illness.

The project consists of a seminar phase and a research phase. Starting with an introduction into the basic concepts (e.g. basic concepts of the disease concept of mental disorders, introduction to the social construction of health and disease, reflection on normative components of disease concepts, social stigmatization processes) as well as an intensive introduction to qualitative-empirical research methodology. In the subsequent research phase, students develop research questions as well as their own research tools (interview guidelines). Interdisciplinary teams will conduct interviews with psychiatrists and thus collect their own data in psychiatry, which will then be analyzed to answer the research questions developed at the beginning. After the joint analysis and compilation of the results students will present the scientific results in an appropriate setting (professional publication, scientific conference).

Project's staff:

In cooperation with:

  • Klaus Steigleder, Insitute for applied ethics, Ruhr-University Bochum
  • Estrid Sörensen, Mercator Research Group "Spaces of Anthropological Knowledge", Ruhr-University Bochum

 

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ENSURE

ENSURE: Enhancing the Informed Consent Process: Supported decision-making and capacity assessment in clinical dementia research

Funding:
ENSURE is funded by the German Ministry for Education and Research (BMBF).

Project Duration:
2016 - 2019

Summary:
As a result of an ageing population, the already high number of people suffering from dementia will significantly increase in European countries in the coming decades. For this reason, there is a substantial need for further medical dementia research. People with dementia have the right to decide whether or not they want to participate in clinical research on the basis of their free informed consent. High standards for the informed consent process and the assessment of decision-making capacity are important to protect potential research participants.

ENSURE is an international and interdisciplinary collaboration involving the following project partners:

ENSURE involves researchers from gerontology, psychology, psychiatry, law and medical ethics. The project aims to enhance the capacity to consent of people with dementia, to improve the assessment of decision-making capacity, to protect those who do not have the capacity to consent, and to ensure that the inclusion of people with dementia in neuroscientific and medical research is ethically justifiable. The Bochum subproject focuses on ethical and conceptual questions regarding informed consent and decision-making capacity.

Within the thematic context of ENSURE, Jochen Vollmann and Jakov Gather serve as trustees of the German Academy for Ethics in Medicine and Matthé Scholten and Astrid Gieselmann as experts for the AMWF S2k clinical guideline “Informed consent to medical treatment for persons with dementia.”

Project's staff: