Just Emergencies Episode 13: Moral Experiences of Healthcare Providers in Covid-19 Research

Welcome to another episode of the ‘Just Emergencies’ podcast. In Episode 13 ‘Moral Experiences of Healthcare Providers in Covid-19 Research’, McGill Research Assistant Eliza Yadav interviews Professor Matthew Hunt and Research Coordinator Ani Chenier about their collective study on the ethics of conducting clinical research during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Given the severity and rapid increase in COVID-19 cases during the spring 2020, researchers were working quickly to find effective therapies to prevent and treat COVID-19 infection. COVID-19 clinical trials have presented particular benefits and challenges for front-line healthcare providers, and they continue to encounter ethical questions and concerns as they care for patients who are enrolled or excluded from these studies.

‘One of the things we think of in the context of crisis research is that the justificatory bar, that is the threshold that justifies the initiation of a particular research project is raised. We need a stronger argument. The rationale tends to be more robust, especially in a clinical environment.’

In this episode, Prof. Hunt and Ani discuss the preliminary results of their study which include COVID research landscapes and participants’ motivation behind becoming involved with research. Currently, there is intense or unrelenting news coverage on COVID-19; disruptions in people’s personal lives due to public health or other unrelated measures; and fear for participants’ own, their loved ones, and their colleagues’ health. A key takeaway from the study thus far is that there is a need for a diverse and easily accessible set of tools aimed at front-line healthcare workers who get invited to be taking on roles in research during medical crises.

This study, titled ‘Ethics of Implementing Research in a Crisis: Understanding moral experiences of healthcare providers and clinician researchers at the intersection of COVID research and clinical practice’ was funded by the McGill Interdisciplinary Initiative and Immunity (MI4) and the McMaster COVID-19 Research Fund. In addition to Eliza, Ani, and Matthew, the research team also includes Co-PI Prof Lisa Schwartz from McMaster University, Research Assistant Takhliq Amir, and one of two Research Coordinators Rachel Yantzi.

To find out more, listen to the full episode and/or read the complete episode transcripts.


Beach, M. C., Lederman, H. M., Singleton, M., Brower, R. G., Carrese, J., Ford, D. E., … & Zenilman, J. M. (2020). Desperate Times: Protecting the Public From Research Without Consent or Oversight During Public Health Emergencies.

Cook, D. J., Kho, M. E., Duan, E. H., Alhazzani, W., Takaoka, A., Clarke, F. J., … & Vanstone, M. (2020). Principles Guiding Nonpandemic Critical Care Research During a Pandemic. Critical Care Medicine.

Humanitarian health ethics (hhe). (2019). Perceptions of research during the 2014-15 Ebola (EVD) Crisis. Retrieved from: https://humanitarianhealthethics.net/home/reserach/hhe-research-studies/evd-iqr

Hunt, Matthew and Franco A. Carnevale. (2011). Moral Experience: A framework for bioethics research. Journal of Medical Ethics. 37: 658-662.

Judkins-Cohn, T. M., Kielwasser-Withrow, K., Owen, M., & Ward, J. (2013). Ethical principles of informed consent: Exploring nurses’ dual role of care provider and researcher. The Journal of Continuing Education in Nursing, 45(1), 35-42.

World Health Organization (WHO). (2020). Ethical standards for research during public health emergencies: Distilling existing guidance to support COVID-19 R&D. Retrieved from: https://www.who.int/blueprint/priority-diseases/key-action/liverecovery-save-of-ethical-standards-for-research-during-public-health-emergencies.pdf?ua=1


This podcast is edited and produced by Eliza Yadav and Rebecca Richards, made with funding from the Wellcome Trust and the McGill Interdisciplinary Initiative and Immunity (MI4) and the McMaster COVID-19 Research Fund.

Shownotes were written by Eliza Yadav.

Our intro song is ‘The sun comes up, I come down’ by Silicon Transmitter.

Our outro song is ‘Surge and Swell’ by Pictures of the Floating World.

Both are available under an Attribution-Noncommerical-ShareAlike3.0 Creative Commons License from Free Music Archive.

Image by Mufid Majnun on Unsplash.