Two primary international codes govern the conduct of medical research
involving human subjects. The Declaration of Helsinki is a document
promulgated by the World Medical Association “as a guide to each doctor in
The Nuremberg Code arose from the Nuremberg trials of
Nazi war criminals accused of conducting medical experiments on prisoners
that caused great suffering and many deaths. The code sets forth principles
designed to protect human subjects from abuses related to medical research.
The code’s statement of the ethical framework for medical research is
considered to be the policy behind federal and state regulation of human-
Neither of these codes has the force of law, but they set the moral tone for all
medical research, including research unregulated by state or federal law. These
codes are admissible in court as evidence of the proper standard of care for
medical experimentation. Every physician who is involved in medical research
should read and be familiar with these codes.