6.03.2009

The Risk/Benefit Ratio

In the last year, all I've heard about is evaluating the risk/benefit ratio in terms of conducting research and considering the ethical issues involved in experimentation and in practice. And I'm blessed to say I hear it from both school and work - I'm fortunate to be working in the field of mental health before I've even earned a BA.

I'm in the middle of completing Northwestern University's Institutional Review Board training. Most of today has been devoted to it, and I'm about 75% done. Again, I couldn't begin to tell you how many times I've read about the potential risks and benefits a research study might infer. I'm almost annoyed.

When a researcher wants to propose an experiment or study, the IRB has to approve it after reviewing several factors, one of which being the risk/benefit ratio. In other words, the potential benefits to the research subjects has to outweigh the potential risks, and any risks that exist must be minimal.

For me everything is related to everything, so it should be no surprise that my personal life parallels my academic and professional life.

Relationships have a certain element of risk/benefit ratio. That's nothing new, right? When you meet someone, you assess the pros and cons of being with that person. At some point, you must decide: am I willing to take the risk of getting hurt in order to gain the possibility of finding the love of my life?

The moment of that decision comes at a different point for each of us. Some people need to answer that question from the get-go. Others take weeks, maybe months to consider the weight of that commitment. For some, the idea of love is absolutely frightening, and to talk about it or even think about it so soon is ridiculous.

A friend of mine once told me that if you're not ready to hurt again, you're not ready to love again.

Because there's always an element of risk.

So we ask ourselves: do the benefits outweigh the risks?

I don't know.

Has the good become the enemy of the great?

I don't know.

I want an IRB for relationships. I'll write a relationship proposal, and a group of reviewers can approve the relationship based on the risk/benefit ratio, informed consent, and any other ethical or methodological issues that may exist. Ha. Unfortunately relationships are far more complicated than research studies.

1 comment:

  1. I agree this would be interesting to research.

    ReplyDelete