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The Ethics Approval of Participant Observation in an Anthroposophic Cancer Ward in Germany

By: Edited by: Published: 2017 | Product: SAGE Research Methods Cases Part 1
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Many people affected with cancer are overwhelmed by the invasiveness of biomedical treatment. They often feel pressed for time and express a loss of control over important life and treatment decisions. Hospitals that combine biomedical therapies with complementary and alternative medicine offer patients a way out of this situation. To research this very personal and sensitive topic, the author carried out ethnography in an anthroposophic cancer ward. This case study shows that participant observation in a hospital is neither a common nor standardized practice in Germany. To be able to undertake this kind of research, the author was required to go through a process of ethics review that is normally reserved for quantitative medical trials. Ironically, the ethics review committee’s lack of familiarity with ethnographic methods led to sufficient freedom to conduct the research.

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Participant observation

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