Research Ethics – A Brief Insight into the Helsinki Declaration
Helsinki declaration is considered as the milestone in the history of ethics, specifically human research ethics. The Declaration of Helsinki (DoH) is a set of ethical principles involving human experimentation developed for all the medical community by the World Medical Association (WMA). Initially it was adopted by the 18th WMA General Assembly, Helsinki, Finland in June 1964 and then it was amended at various WMA meetings. At present there are total sixth revisions to this declaration, the latest being at General Assembly, which approved it on October 18 2008, which consists of 35 paragraphs.
Each revision holds many dark events, queries, problems faced by researchers behind it that bring forward the amendments at each consecutive meeting of WMA. As Nuremberg code precedes the Helsinki Declaration, I find the following two major differences among the two cornerstone documents of research ethics:
1. Nuremberg code addressed the physicians only to prevent mistakes in treatment.
2. DoH binds physicians as well as encourages all research participants that involve human subject, data or material.
3. Nuremberg code finds the consent to be absolute in all cases.
4. But DoH provides a relaxation in consent as it says to obtain consent ‘if at all possible’. It also allows the researchers to obtain ‘proxy consent’ if a legal guardian is available.
Remembering Nazi Doctors I questioned myself that we often blame people for bringing such horrible histories, calling them non-civilized, uneducated and so on. But these incidences in the history of mankind were brought about by the most educated people. Were they uneducated, uncivilized?
That gives me one simple answer: “Never try to bring good over the pain of others for whomever whatever they are”. The declaration of Geneva binds the physicians with the golden words: “The health of my patient will be my first consideration.” I thank these milestones that brought a word to humanity, I hope not to see such mental tortures of human experimentation ever again!
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