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, 2 (2), 72-6

The Nuremberg Code-A Critique


The Nuremberg Code-A Critique

Ravindra B Ghooi. Perspect Clin Res.


The Nuremberg Code drafted at the end of the Doctor's trial in Nuremberg 1947 has been hailed as a landmark document in medical and research ethics. Close examination of this code reveals that it was based on the Guidelines for Human Experimentation of 1931. The resemblance between these documents is uncanny. It is unfortunate that the authors of the Nuremberg Code passed it off as their original work. There is evidence that the defendants at the trial did request that their actions be judged on the basis of the 1931 Guidelines, in force in Germany. The prosecutors, however, ignored the request and tried the defendants for crimes against humanity, and the judges included the Nuremberg Code as a part of the judgment. Six of ten principles in Nuremberg Code are derived from the 1931 Guidelines, and two of four newly inserted principles are open to misinterpretation. There is little doubt that the Code was prepared after studying the Guidelines, but no reference was made to the Guidelines, for reasons that are not known. Using the Guidelines as a base document without giving due credit is plagiarism; as per our understanding of ethics today, this would be considered unethical. The Nuremberg Code has fallen by the wayside; since unlike the Declaration of Helsinki, it is not regularly reviewed and updated. The regular updating of some ethics codes is evidence of the evolving nature of human ethics.

Keywords: Ethics; Nuremberg; guidelines; human subjects; research.

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