Research ethics committees have an important role to play in ensuring the ethical standards and scientific merit of research involving human subjects. There are three important obligations placed on the ethics committee. Firstly, and most importantly, the ethics committee must ensure that the rights of research participants are protected. This is achieved by ensuring that individuals receive sufficient information, which can be easily understood, and ensuring that appropriate strategies are in place to protect participants from potential adverse consequences of the research. Secondly, the research ethics committee has an obligation to society which provides the resources for research and will ultimately be affected by the results. Thirdly, the research ethics committee has an obligation to the researcher. The research proposal should be treated with respect and consideration. The research ethics committee should strive to meet each of these obligations. All researchers should welcome the contribution made by research ethics committees to the research process because they help to ensure that research meets the high ethical and scientific standards expected by society.