OPINION1 July 2020

Protecting the vulnerable

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Impact Legal Opinion UK

Julie Corney, standards and compliance manager at MRS, writes about protections for interviewing vulnerable people. 

Umbrella and rain

In January 2016, MRS produced a best-practice guide and checklist to help practitioners identify, understand and respond to research-participant vulnerabilities effectively and consistently.

Since the Data Protection Act 2018 was introduced – which emphasises showing accountability throughout the data-collection process – a new section on vulnerable people has been added to the 2019 Code of Conduct. This will help ensure the needs of vulnerable participants are considered in developing products and services, policy-making and regulatory supervision and enforcement.

Best ethical practice is reinforced by new code rules covering vulnerable people, underlining the importance of our members’ professional activities being widely accessible:

Rule 23. 

Members must take reasonable steps to assess, identify and consider the particular needs of vulnerable people involved in their professional activities.

Rule 24. 

When working with vulnerable people, members must ensure that such individuals are capable of making informed decisions and are not unfairly pressured to cooperate with a request to participate, and that they are given an ...