What Is The Nuremberg Code And Why Does It Matter?

Doctor with coat on, and pens in pocket.

Doctor with coat on, and pens in pocket.

The Nuremberg Code is in the news recently. Why? What does something that far back in history have to do with today? Lots! Let me explain.

What is it?

The Nuremberg Code os a set of research ethics principles for human experimentation. These were created in 1947 after the Nuremberg Trials were concluded. These tried Nazi doctors for their actions during WWII. Here is a summary of the principles of which you can read the full code here. They are in regards to medical experiments and thus, crimes against humanity.


1. The voluntary consent of the human subject is absolutely essential. This means that the government or other agency, or any one else, cannot force, bribe, allure, or reward the subject. This also means that everything regarding this procedure needs to be made known, including side effects, long term and short term effects, hazards as well as benefits, and duration.

2. The experiment should be as such as to yield fruitful results for the good of society, not random and unnecessary in nature.

3. The experiment should be designed and based on the results of animal experimentation and a knowledge of natural history of the disease.

4. The disease should be so conducted as to avoid all unnecessary physical and mental suffering and injury.

5. No experiment should be conducted where there is a priori reason to believe that death or disabling injury will occur; except where the experimental physician is also the subject.

6. The degree of risk taken should never exceed that determined by the humanitarian importance of the problem to be solved.

7. Proper preparations should be made and adequate facilities provided to protect the experimental subject against even remote possibilities of injury, disability, or death.

8. The experiment should be conducted only by scientifically qualified persons.

9. The subject should be at liberty to bring the experiment to an end if he has reached the physical or mental stage where continuation of the experiment seems impossible.

10. The scientist in charge must also be prepared to terminate the experiment at any stage if the continuation of the experiment is likely to result in injury, disability, or death.


Today, the code is adopted worldwide by medical professionals. However, worldwide, medical officers do still misuse their authority as they proceed further into medical unknowns.


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