Essay on Ethical Conduct in Human Research

Essay on Ethical Conduct in Human Research

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Ethics refers to the values and customs of a community at a particular point in time. At present, the term ethics is guided by the moral principles that guide our everyday actions. These moral principles guide the researcher into deciding what is ‘right’ or ‘wrong’. The foundation of medical ethics is governed by two philosophical frameworks that are deontology, and utilitarianism. However ultimately the ethics committees need to balance the risks, and benefits for the participants and the community associated with the particular research proposal. This balance is quite important as the well being of participants is at risk.7

Over the last twentieth century, there have been numerous examples in which ethical principles have not been considered in research leading to ethical breaches that have negative implications on study participants.1 One US human experimentation study which breached ethical conduct was the US Public Health Service Syphilis Study, more commonly known as the Tuskegee Syphilis Study, which was conducted from 1932 through 1972.2 The study recruited 399 African-American male subjects diagnosed with syphilis. The recruited men came from poor, rural counties around Tuskegee, Alabama. The stated purpose of the study was to obtain information about the course of untreated syphilis. The study was initially meant to be for 6 months, however the study was modified into a “death as end-point study”.8,9

The medical researchers of the Tuskegee Syphilis Study failed to gain the proper informed consent by explaining to the subjects they had a diagnosis of syphilis. Rather, the researchers decided to deceive the men to believe they were receiving special treatment from the Us Public Health Service for their “bad blood”...

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9. Baader G, Lederer SE, Low M, Schmaltz F, Schwerin
10. AV. Pathways to human experimentation, 1933-1945: Germany, Japan, and the United States. In: Sachse C, Walker M, eds. Osiris, 2nd Series, Volume 20, Politics and Science in Wartime: Comparative International Perspectives on the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press; 2005:205-231.
11. Solomon J. United States: government concludes some AIDS drug experiments on foster children violated rules. Published June 17, 2005. http://www. [Accessed March 24, 200].
12. McNeill PM. Development of codes of ethics. In: McNeill PM, ed. The Ethics and Politics of Human Experimentation. New York, NY: Cambridge University Press; 1993:37-51.
13. NH&MRC. (2007). National Statement on Ethical Conduct in Human Research. Australian Government: Canberra.

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