Ethics & Human Research

The Ethics of Using News Stories concerning Minors as Empirical Material in Health Research: Reflections on a Swedish Case

ABSTRACT In 2021, we were designing a research study in Sweden in which we planned to use newspaper articles focus­ing on children and adolescents under the age of eighteen during the Covid-19 pandemic as empirical material. As we developed this study, an ethical question arose: do studies using journalistic articles that may contain health informa­tion about individuals as empirical material have to be approved by an ethics review committee? Sweden, in contrast to other countries, requires the approval of an ethics review committee for the use of publicly available material in research when such material might include sensitive personal data such as health-related information. This case study calls for harmonized laws and policies that support global research by clarifying what kinds of empirical material and what types of research must be assessed by national ethics review committees, including with consideration for children’s safety and rights.

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