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In the recent issue of the American Journal of Bioethics, the target article addresses the ethics of finding participants for clinical trials on social media sites. The authors, from Harvard Law School and Harvard Medical School, analyzed the particular ethical issues that occur in the online setting compared to in-person recruitment and provide practical recommendations for investigators and Institutional Review Boards (IRBs).

“Recruitment to is extremely challenging, raising distinctively practical and , and social media is beginning to show real promise as a recruitment tool, due largely to its ubiquity and use among just about every demographic,” Professor Luke Gelinas of Harvard Law School told Phys.org. He says that there has been little serious reflection on the ethical and regulatory issues raised by recruitment using social media. He also thinks that recruiting via social media risks being under-utilized.

 

“Our working group wanted to address the ethical issues toward the end of providing some concrete guidance to IRBs and , which can hopefully facilitate the review and use of social media as a recruitment mechanism.”

 

Today online communities provide virtual support groups for people with certain diseases and for their friends and family making virtual groups a good place to find potential research participants. Furthermore, social media allows researchers to find participants that have been traditionally hard-to-reach, such as those with rare diseases.

 

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