There are four basic ethical principles that should be observed while conducting community consultations. The principle of Autonomy requires that any notion of moral decision-making assumes that sensible agents are involved in the making of informed, as well as, voluntary decisions. A “reasonable volunteer” standard be used thus this principle is for the practice of “informed consent” which contains three elements: information, comprehension and voluntariness.

The principle of non-maleficence requires of us that we not intentionally create a harm or injury to the person, either through acts of commission or omission. In common language, we consider it negligent if one imposes a thoughtless or unreasonable threat of harm upon another. Providing a proper level of care that avoids or reduces the threat of harm is supported not only by our commonly held moral convictions, but by the laws of society as well. 

Beneficence insists on risk/benefit valuations “are concerned with the likelihoods as well as magnitudes of possible dangers and anticipated benefits” (Wright, 2013).  All possible dangers, not just physical or even psychological discomfort or injury, should be well-thought-out. The principle of beneficence necessitates both protecting individuals against risk of injury and contemplation of not only the benefits for the individual, but also the societal benefits that might be accrued from the research.

Justice requires that you select subjects equitably, treat people fairly and design research so that its burdens and benefits are shared equitably.
One should also avoid exploitation of vulnerable populations or populations of convenience such as prisoners and those incarcerated. Justice is usually described as a form of impartiality, or as Philosopher Aristotle once put it as, “giving to each one that which is his due.” This denotes the fair circulation of goods in the general public and entails that we look at the role of claim. This way the vulnerable population will be protected. 


Baren, J. M., & Fish, S. S. (2005). Resuscitation research concerning vulnerable populations: are added protections needed for emergency exclusion from informed consent?. Academic emergency medicine, 12(11), 1071-1077.

Wright, P. (2013, September 3). Autonomy and certainty for the legal sector. Retrieved November 20, 2013, from Human Rights Law Centre:

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