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The Ethics of Research With the Geriatric Population

Kirsch, Nancy R. PT, DPT, PhD; Haverlock, Christopher PT

doi: 10.1097/TGR.0b013e3181c97979

Older adults have not been consistently included in research studies, and this has had a profound effect on the generalizability of research findings to this population. The difficulty of including older adults often arises in obtaining informed consent when the individual might not have the capacity to provide that consent. Providing a research format that does not hinder the treatment of the older patient is a challenge. The lack of research results in incomplete or inadequate information. This article addresses a common problem, falls, with limited information. Falls provide a significant risk, and the research regarding tests to predict the frequency of falls is not widely used. We know that the possibility of falling is decreased by increasing the awareness of caregivers that the patient is at risk of falling. Research with vulnerable populations requires increased attentiveness to the rights of the research subjects. The elderly population is a vulnerable population. This vulnerability increases the challenge of ethical research but does not diminish the need.

University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey, Newark (Dr Kirsch); and Trinitas Regional Medical Center, Elizabeth, New Jersey (Mr Haverlock).

Corresponding Author: Nancy R. Kirsch, PT, DPT, PhD, University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey, 65 Bergen Street, Physical Therapy Program, Room 718B, Newark, NJ 07101 (

© 2009 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.