Human research ethics — a work in progress

Robert H Loblay
Med J Aust 2008; 188 (11): . || doi: 10.5694/j.1326-5377.2008.tb01817.x
Published online: 2 June 2008

Ethical issues are constantly changing as clinical research and practice push out the boundaries of what we know and do

The beginnings of ethical and regulatory oversight of the human research enterprise are customarily traced to the Nuremberg Code, a set of principles and standards for medical experiments outlined by the Nuremberg war crimes tribunal in 1947 following revelations of the infamous Nazi experiments conducted during World War II.1 Ironically, Germany was the first Western country to officially require informed consent for non-therapeutic research. In 1900, the Prussian minister for religious, educational and medical affairs issued a directive after it came to light that Albert Neisser had injected syphilitic serum into prostitutes without their knowledge or consent;2 and in 1931, the Reich Minister of the Interior introduced Guidelines on innovative therapy and scientific experimentation following an inquiry into the Lübeck disaster, in which 75 infants died and 168 others developed tuberculosis after receiving a contaminated batch of oral BCG vaccine.3,4

  • Robert H Loblay

  • Royal Prince Alfred Hospital, Sydney, NSW.



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