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Identifying Gaps in Suicide Research: A Scoping Review of Ethical Challenges and Proposed Recommendations

Death by suicide is a leading cause of fatality among individuals aged 15 to 44, but practical ethical challenges related to suicide are seldom discussed. We conducted a scoping review to identify gaps in the (English- and French-language) literature about ethics and suicide research and to gather proposed recommendations. Topics discussed in the articles in our sample included trial design, recruitment, researchers’ obligations to participants, and the distinction between research and therapy. Our review of the literature reveals no consensus on these topics. Identified barriers to suicide research included assumptions about the harms caused by research and uncertainty about how to overcome ethical challenges. Our review reveals that ethics discussions about suicide research are limited and demonstrates a need for increased international focus and international guidelines on this topic.

Keywords: suicide research, research on vulnerable populations, risks and benefits of research