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Participatory Bioethics Research and its Social Impact: The Case of Coercion Reduction in Psychiatry

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In this article we address the social value of bioethics research and show how a participatory approach can achieve social impact for a wide audience of stakeholders, involving them in a process of joint moral learning. Participatory bioethics recognizes that research co‐produced with stakeholders is more likely to have impact on healthcare practice. These approaches aim to engage multiple stakeholders and interested partners throughout the whole research process, including the framing of ideas and research questions, so that outcomes are tailored to the interests and context, and the type of impact stakeholders envisage. There is an emphasis on realizing social change through the conduct (not merely the results) of the research, and it is believed that the engagement of stakeholders in the research process will promote their intrinsic motivation to change their practice. Another distinctive feature of participatory bioethics research is that its central normative commitment is to reflection and dialogue, not to a particular substantive ethical approach. In reflection and dialogue there is an emphasis on inclusion and the co‐production of knowledge. Furthermore, empirical and normative research are combined, and there is a deliberate attempt to give voice to otherwise marginalized positions. This provides a model of social impact which is relevant not only for bioethics research, but also for other areas of health care research. We will show the merits of a participatory approach to bioethics research with a case example. It concerns the reduction of coercion and in particular seclusion in Dutch mental healthcare.
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Keywords: bioethics research; coercion; participatory; psychiatry; social impact

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: February 1, 2017

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