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Landmark Documents

These writings are among the most influential statements of principles in bioethics.

The Hippocratic Oath — 400 BCE

The Hippocratic Oath communicates the message that physicians should, above all, “do no harm.” This phrase does not actually appear in the oath but may come from another of Hippocrates writings, Of the Epidemics.

Many medical schools administer a modern version of the Hippocratic Oath to their graduating students. This version was written in 1964 by Louis Lasagna, who was Academic Dean of the School of Medicine at Tufts University in Boston.

The Nuremberg Code — 1947

The Nuremberg Code was written in 1947 as part of the legal judgment against 23 Nazi physicians convicted of crimes against humanity for the gruesome experiments they conducted on concentration camp prisoners. The trial took place at the Palace of Justice in Nuremberg, Germany. The Code has been a model for statements about the ethical treatment of human subjects in biomedical research.

Declaration of Helsinki — 1964

The Declaration of Helsinki is a statement of ethical principles intended to guide biomedical research involving human subjects. Created by the World Medical Association in 1964, the Declaration has been updated multiple times.

The Belmont Report:
Ethical Principles and Guidelines for the Protection of Human Subjects Research — 1979

The Belmont Report, published in 1979, summarizes the ethical principles that became the basis of federal regulations protecting the rights of human subjects in biomedical research in the United States The report emphasized three principles—respect for persons, beneficence, and justice—that effectively extend the notion of “do no harm” to “do good.” The principles are part of the Code of Federal Regulations, Title 45, Part 46.

Guidelines for Biomedical Research
Involving Human Subjects — 2002

Written by the Council for International Organizations of Medical Sciences (CIOMS), these are the latest ethical guidelines intended to help countries develop policies on biomedical research involving human subjects.

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