Systemic inflammation is a pathogenetic component in a vast number of acute and chronic diseases such as sepsis, trauma, type 2 diabetes, atherosclerosis, and Alzheimer's disease, all of which are associated with a substantial morbidity and mortality. However, the molecular mechanisms and physiological significance of the systemic inflammatory response are still not fully understood. The human endotoxin model, an in vivo model of systemic inflammation in which lipopolysaccharide is injected or infused intravenously in healthy volunteers, may be helpful in unravelling these issues. The present review addresses the basic changes that occur in this model. The activation of inflammatory cascades as well as organ-specific haemodynamic and functional changes after lipopolysaccharide are described, and the limitations of human-experimental models for the study of clinical disease are discussed. Finally, we outline the ethical considerations that apply to the use of human endotoxin model.