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The Law and Ethics of Medical Research: International Bioethics and Human Rights

BMJ 2005; 331 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.331.7511.298-a (Published 28 July 2005) Cite this as: BMJ 2005;331:298

This article has a correction. Please see:

  1. Berna Arda, professor of medical ethics (arda@medicine.ankara.edu.tr)
  1. Ankara University, Ankara

    Medical research has come a long way since an ethical approach to medicine was first outlined in the Hippocratic oath. It is generally accepted that the principles of beneficence and of doing no harm arose in medical contexts. Respect for people's autonomy is, however, a relatively new principle—one we can trace to the Enlightenment era. This principle is now a crucial one in the routine practice of medicine and in research. Informed consent is accepted as one way to put the principle into practice. If there were no such thing as informed consent, patients' autonomy would not be possible. Recent history has many examples—the Nazis' experiments or the Japanese tests of organisms on prisoners in Manchuria in the 1930s—where ignorance of or blindness to the principle of autonomy was evident. Such abuses represent turning points …

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