Mystery shopping is being increasingly used in psychiatric service evaluation but because it involves an element of deception, akin to research involving pseudo-patients, questions have been raised about its ethical acceptability. Here we discuss these ethical issues and argue that mystery shopping should only take place subject to certain conditions. First, it ought to be clear that the evaluation cannot be done by using non-deceptive methods. Second, independent scrutiny should conclude that the importance of the aims of the evaluation is sufficient to justify the deception used.
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