The Belmont Principles and Declaration of Helsinki

661 Words3 Pages
Revelations from the Tuskegee syphilis experiment forced the medical community to enact policies to prevent such a tragedy from repeating itself. Consequently, the Belmont Principles and Declaration of Helsinki were created in order to establish a universal code of ethics for research involving human subjects. Both the Belmont Principle and Declaration of Helsinki emphasize that the well-being of research subjects triumphs over any research goals. Although these documents were created in order to simplify and unify medical ethics, their simplicity allowed for continued debate. In the editorial “The Ethics of Clinical Research in the Third World,” Marcia Angell argues that the current shift towards the privatization of clinical trials has diminished standards expressed by the Belmont Principles and the Declaration of Helsinki. In “Ethical Complexities of Conducting Research in Developing Countries,” Harold Varmus and David Satcher argue current studies are well-monitored and ethical according to the needs of the specific region.

Angell argues that the guidelines of the Belmont Principles and Declaration of Helsinki can only be upheld if context is ignored. Streamlining medical ethics to a universal system lowers the risk of abuse. To prevent abuse of power, all the goals of research must be “secondary to the well-being of the participants” (Angell 847). The investigator’s responsibility is to provide the best quality possible for the subjects even at the expense of scientific progress. Angell highlights the difference between the best possible care and the best available care. She claims that treatment of subjects by following the local standard of care when a better treatment exists is unethical. Context, or the feasibility of ...

... middle of paper ...

...als are likely to be approved in the U.S. and most developed nations, it would be unjust to deprive those in the Third World these opportunities; citizens in Third World Countries have the right to participate in research that can potentially benefit them. Context matters; ethical principles must mold to the subjects’ socioeconomic situations.

Editorials by Angell and Varmus and Sather offer opposing views on the ethics of clinical trials in Third World countries. Angell ultimately stresses that subjects must be regarded as patients; context cannot supersede the universal principles of medical ethics. Conversely, Varmus, and Sather conclude that a universal code cannot be ethically applied in all countries; the specific desires and needs of a local community must be honored; therefore, the same principles cannot be applied in the exact manner in all countries.
Open Document