Ethical Challenges

7. The Global Norm of Ethics Committees

Ideas about what is ethical and how science should be conducted develop and evolve in a social context. Writings about ethical behavior can be traced to Hippocrates but norms developed over the last 60 years were stimulated by the revelations of Nazi medical experiments. Since then, despite the existence of codes of ethics to govern research, several examples of disregard for human welfare have come to public attention. Although many scientists are cognizant of their ethical responsibilities, there have been frank abuses of human participants and many instances of other questionable ethical behavior in research. The revelations of disregard for human welfare in US conducted and supported research resulted in the development of guidance and regulations to prevent abuses and inappropriate research with humans from recurring. Rules were put into place when public opinion prevailed that self-regulation and monitoring by the scientific community is insufficient to protect human research participants. Examples of these incidents include:

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Tuskegee Syphilis Study
The Willowbrook Study
The Jewish Chronic Disease Hospital Study
The New Zealand National Women’s Hospital Study
The Guatemalan Study