Intended for healthcare professionals

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Editorials Christmas 2010: Editorial

Self experimentation and the Nuremberg Code

BMJ 2010; 341 doi: (Published 15 December 2010) Cite this as: BMJ 2010;341:c7103

Rapid Response:

Seeking more employment?

Is Professor and chair Annas serious, or is he poking fun at the
ethics committees? He actually suggests that ethics committees are better
placed to judge the safety of experiments on their own body than able
minded researchers. I would doubt that. It does reduce ethics approval to
what it often is: a compulsory administrative nuisance.
Particularly in cancer research I observe trials where the primary rule of
patient research, that participants have probably a better deal than non-
participants, is violated. An example are the very large prostate cancer
screening trials, where harms in the participants are certain but benefits
are uncertain and certainly limited.

I wrote a paper some years ago if the ethics committee would open up the
arguments supporting the (exceptional) inclusion of men 70-75 year old in
the Rotterdam prostate cancer screening trial. Due to the chronic nature
of prostate cancer, these men can only expect prostate cancer mortality
reductions after the age of 85. I am still waiting for their answer.

The emperors of ethics often have little clinical and epidemiogical
clothes, to judge about the delicate balance of harms and benefits.

Competing interests: No competing interests

21 December 2010
Luc G Bonneux
sr researcher