Moral accountability and debriefing

Kennedy Institute of Ethics Journal 18 (3):pp. 253-273 (2008)
Abstract
What is the ethical significance of debriefing in deceptive research? The standard view of debriefing is that it serves to disclose the deception to the participant and is a means of evaluating and mitigating potential harms that may have resulted from involvement in the research. However, as the article by Miller, Gluck, and Wendler in this issue of the Kennedy Institute of Ethics Journal points out, there has been little systematic attention to the ethics of debriefing, particularly with regard to the role of debriefing in addressing the prima facie moral wrong of deception itself. They argue that in addition to mitigating the harms of deception, debriefing should include an apology to participants for being deceived. In the current paper, I argue that an apology is not morally obligatory in most research contexts. Debriefing should be considered an opportunity to further define the researcher-participant relationship without the need to be remorseful about the research practice.
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