Protecting Human Subjects in Medical Research

Protecting Human Subjects in Medical Research

Research involving human subjects is an integrated part of medical science. Apart from its practical necessity, it involves profound ethical considerations. The videos on the topic stress the importance of protecting human test subjects with the attention to voluntary participation, safety, just distribution of burdens and benefits, and informed consent.

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A documentary titled “Caring corrupted: The killing nurses of the Third Reich” covers the use of human test subjects in Nazi medical experiments and, by extension, stresses the necessity of voluntary participation. The video makes it exceedingly clear that most unethical practices endorsed by Nazi medical professionals involved involuntary subjects (“Caring Corrupted,” 2017). The idea of voluntary participation in any research involving human subjects is of utmost importance because ignoring it goes against every notion of contemporary medical ethics. Protecting Human Subjects in Medical Research


The video named “Research ethics involving human subjects” (2014) also emphasizes the crucial importance of consent in researching humans. It becomes especially evident when the video discusses Nazi war crimes and point out that one of the key factors that made them unethical was the utter absence of consent on the subjects’ part (“Research ethics,” 2014). As mentioned above, this point is enormously important because non-consensual studies of human subjects ignore the principle of respect for persons, which is why contemporary medical ethics does not endorse or allow such experiments

A video called “Guiding Principles of Institutional Review Boards (IRB)” (2015) makes a valid point regarding the safety of test subjects. It notes that the research designs should exclude subjects from the demographics that may face increased risks in the course of the study. For instance, if elderly people will encounter disproportionally higher risks, reducing the age range is likely a good idea (“Guiding principles,” 2015). This point is important because it highlights how the concerns for the safety of human subjects should be incorporated into the research design.

The first part of the video on the Belmont Report titled “Basic Ethical Principles” (2011) is notable for listing all three of said principles, namely, respect for persons, beneficence, and justice. Other videos refer to beneficence and respect, thus making the explanation of justice the key point of this one. When applied to the studies involving human subjects, justice means that both the burdens and the benefits of research should be distributed fairly (“Basic ethical principles,” 2011). This point is important because it addresses not merely the process, but the result of the research – namely, producing new and practically applicable medical knowledge.

Finally, the second of the video on the Belmont Report dubbed “Applying the principles” (2011) elaborates further on the importance of consent in any research involving human test subjects. It was already mentioned above, consent is an essential requirement for conducting such studies, and attempting to conduct them otherwise is unethical and criminal. However, the video stresses that the consent should be informed, and the participants should have full information regarding the study (“Applying the principles,” 2011). This point is important because, as shown by the Tuskegee syphilis study, uninformed consent may pave the way for abuse and mistreatment just as well as its absence. Protecting Human Subjects in Medical Research

To summarize, all videos offer valid judgments regarding the ethics of studies involving human subjects. While the sources focus on different aspects, their content mainly amounts to several essential points. These points are voluntary participation with informed consent, safety, and just distribution of burdens and benefits of the research.


Caring corrupted: The killing nurses of the Third Reich. (2017). Web.

Guiding Principles of Institutional Review Boards (IRB). (2015). Web.

Research ethics involving human subjects. (2014). Web.

The Belmont Report (Part one: Basic ethical principles). (2011). Web.

The Belmont Report (Part two: Applying the principles). (2011). Web.

Protecting Human Subjects in Medical Research


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