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Searching for a lost Cow: Ethical Dilemmas in doing Medical Anthropological Research In Bangladesh

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Shahaduz Zaman


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In this paper we present our dilemmas regarding ethical issues in doing medical anthropological research in Bangladesh. Our previous works include hospital ethnography, life histories of childless women, sexual and reproductive health issues, and community health interventions. We argue that following the Euro-American framework for research with human subjects may be completely out of place in a context where respondents are extremely poor and have no institutional education, and where relationships between people are generally very hierarchical, We found it difficult to make the villagers understand what ‘research’ is, as there is no equivalent term for it in rural Bangladesh. The formal Bengali word derived from the Sanskrit language has a meaning connected with ‘finding a lost cow’. By presenting several scenarios from our research experience we show how the Euro-American ethical codes for informed consent, confidentiality, respondent protection, deception and compensation may appear absurd in Bangladeshi villages. With this paper we would like to contribute to the debate on the universality of research ethics. We argue that acting ethically while responding culturally is a complex job but it is time that we think of indigenising bioethics.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Zaman S; Nahar P

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Medische Antropologie

Year: 2011

Volume: 23

Issue: 1

Pages: -

ISSN (print): 0925-4374

Publisher: Universiteit van Amsterdam