Ethical and legal duties in conducting research on violence: lessons from the MacArthur Risk Assessment Study

UMMS Affiliation

Department of Psychiatry

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Document Type



Adolescent; Adult; *Behavioral Research; Codes of Ethics; Confidentiality; *Deinstitutionalization; *Ethics, Medical; Female; Humans; Male; Mental Disorders; *Mentally Ill Persons; Moral Obligations; Nontherapeutic Human Experimentation; Occupational Health; *Patient Advocacy; Professional-Patient Relations; Reproducibility of Results; Research Design; Research Personnel; *Research Subjects; Researcher-Subject Relations; Risk Factors; United States; *Violence


Health Services Administration | Law | Mental and Social Health | Psychiatry | Psychiatry and Psychology | Public Health


This article addresses the ethical and legal duties that must be confronted in any study of the risk of interpersonal violence in the community. Ongoing research--the MacArthur Risk Assessment Study--on the markers of violence among released mental patients is taken as illustrative. Methods by which the researchers are discharging their legal and ethical duties are described and justified. Strategies center around the duty to protect research subjects from their own violence, and the duties to protect research staff and third parties from subjects' violence. By airing these rarely discussed issues, the authors hope to initiate a professional dialogue on crucial ethical and legal aspects of the research process.


Violence Vict. 1993 Winter;8(4):387-96.

Journal/Book/Conference Title

Violence and victims

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