Get an Ethics Consultation

Have a question or need help with an ethical issue in your research? Contact me either by email:, or by phone (323) 442-8242

My mission is to assist students and researchers at USC HSC to think through and address the ethical challenges that frequently arise when designing or conducting research. Consultations are usually related to ethical challenges or uncertainties in the design or conduct of clinical or translational research. Here are some examples – these are not exhaustive:

  • appropriateness of a placebo-controlled design
  • use of invasive research-specific procedures
  • appropriate (not coercive) incentives for research participants
  • return of individual research results or incidental findings to study participants
  • inclusion or exclusion of vulnerable populations
  • ethical appropriateness of conducting a first-in-human trial of a novel intervention
  • There are many more examples of topics that might be well-served by an ethics consultation.

Consultations might also be related to the social or policy implications of novel methodologies or of specific clinical and translational research projects.

Here are a few examples of questions the consultation service should be able to help answer:

  • I want to include only active drug users in my study and exclude any who are trying to quit. Can I do this ethically? Should I offer treatment, treatment referral, or at least encouragement to quit?
  • During screening we discovered that a potential subject has HIV infection. What should I do with this information?
  • I am doing a survey of attitudes of adolescents about different contraceptive methods. Do I need their parents’ permission or consent before I can proceed with recruitment of participants?
  • Most of the subjects in my study will be recruited from a low-income clinic, and I will be paying them $500 to participate. Might this be considered an undue inducement?
  • My study involves a long-term follow-up of drug users, and some of my subjects may go to prison. May I continue to collect data while they are incarcerated? When they are released?
  • My co-author and I have a disagreement about who should be lead author. Can you help us resolve this matter?
  • Potential subjects for my drug trial will have failed all available standard therapies. How do I make sure they understand this is a safety trial and not another treatment?
  • I would like to collect leftover tissue from gynecological surgeries to establish a tissue bank for future genetic studies. What are the ethical concerns with tissue banking?
  • I want to pass out a research survey to my class. I will explain it to them and tell them they may leave if they don’t want to participate. Is this an acceptable consent process?
  • We are conducting a Phase 3 trial of an oncology drug on 7-17 year old children. Should we enroll any of the children who refuse assent but whose parents request and give consent for it?