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Ethics Of The Nuremberg Code Essay

996 words - 4 pages

From 1946 to 1947, the Nuremberg War Crime Trials took place, withfifteen of twenty-three German physicians and research scientist-physicians found guilty of criminal human experimentation projects. The trial court attempted to establish a set of principles of human experimentation that could serve as a code of research ethics. The result was the Nuremberg Code, which attempted to provide a natural law-based set of universal ethical principles. Looking beyond the Nuremberg Code and applying it to modern medical research ethics, there are many challenges that it poses. Many have argued that the Code tries to provide for all unforeseen events, which restricts the researcher by requiring him to anticipate every situation, demanding the impossible. The most important contribution of the Code is the first principle, which says that voluntary consent of the human subject is absolutely essential. The subject involved should have legal capacity to give consent, should have free power of choice, as well as sufficient knowledge and comprehension of the experiment. This restricts that populations upon which some experiment may be conducted, since many do not have “legal capacity”. For instance, studies of mental illness and children’s diseases have been curtailed because neither of these populations has the legal capacity to give consent. Another group of people, prisoners, are never really able to give voluntary consent since they might be enticed by financial rewards, special treatment, and the hope of early release in exchange for participating in the human experimentation projects. British biostatitcian Sir Austin Bradford Hill also questioned whether it was important to inform a research subject who was receiving a placebo since it does no harm to the patient’s body. The Declaration of Helsinki written in 1964 resolved this issue by inserting a clause, which stated, “In case of legal incompetence, informed consent should be obtained from the legal guardian in accordance with national legislation,” (WMO, 1964). Hence, a proxy was given to those who did not have legal capacity allowing researchers to expand their population for experimentation.
The term informed has also been criticized because sometimes even the researcher is not aware of the risks associated with the experiment or they are too technical for the subject to understand. Thus scientists have argued that only adequate information should be released to the patient and a full understanding is not necessary. In this clause, responsibilities are placed on the individual who is initiating, directing, or engaging the experiment but there is no place for the researcher to be reviewed for his actions. The scientist is in full control of making any necessary ethical deliberations. The Declaration of Helsinki added a clause stating experimental protocols should be transmitted to a specially appointed independent committee for consideration and comments.
The third principle of the Code addresses...

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