What is the Nuremberg Code (1947)? Meaning, Definition, Explanation, Content


The Nuremberg Code is an ethical guideline that regulates the preparation and conduct of medical, psychological, and other experiments performed on human subjects.

What is the Nuremberg Code (1947)? Meaning, definition, explanation

The Code consists of ten clearly defined points which state that a subject’s voluntary consent to experimentation is absolutely necessary.

For this to happen, the subject must be capable of making the decision in the legal sense. Consent for experimental purposes must still be voluntary, without pressure, force, deception, fraud, or coercion. The subject must be able to make his or her own decision without being persuaded or coerced in any way to give consent for experimental purposes.

Furthermore, the person must be aware of all details such as the purpose of the experiment, the dangers, any consequential harm, what means will be used and the length of the experiment. Only then can he be in a position to make a fully informed decision.

The Nuremberg Code was established in 1947 and remains one of the international principles of medical ethics. This legal code established clear guidelines for human experimentation that remain the basis of medical education today.

Why does the Nuremberg Code exist? History, reasons

The Nuremberg Code was established in 1947 at the Nuremberg Medical Trial after the verdict was pronounced.

During the Nazi period, doctors performed various experiments on people who were in concentration camps in the name of research. Without regard for their health or lives, forced sterilization and other criminal medical experiments were performed on the prisoners. Among other things, the doctors conducted high-altitude experiments in pressure chambers, hypothermia experiments, typhus, sulfonamide and poison experiments on the prisoners. Furthermore, the drinking of seawater was tested on them.

Finally, in 1947, the largest medical trial in history took place. The U.S. Military Tribunal brought charges in Nuremberg against these 20 doctors and three others accused of organizing medical crimes. After 140 days of trial, the verdict was then handed down by the U.S. Military Court, which ended with seven death sentences, five life sentences, four long-term sentences, and seven acquittals. As a result of this verdict, on August 20, 1947, the U.S. Military Tribunal issued a ten-point code, which subsequently became known as the Nuremberg Code and remains the basis for human experimentation to this day. This ensures that today’s medicine is based on bioethical principles.

What is the purpose of the Nuremberg Code? Purpose

The purpose of the Nuremberg Code is to ensure that human rights and human dignity are preserved and that undignified medical experiments on human beings are avoided. The ten-point Nuremberg Code, adopted in 1947, has had additional points added to it by UNESCO, the World Medical Association, and the Council of Europe in order to adapt it to today’s situation.

To ensure that the fundamental principles of the Code are not forgotten, the Nuremberg regional group of the Association of International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War (IPPNW) commemorated the 50th anniversary of the Nuremberg Code. At its Medicine and Conscience congress, the association supplemented the Code with its own ethical questions and those relating to today on the topics of reproductive medicine, prenatal diagnostics, genetic diagnostics, transplantation medicine, euthanasia and end-of-life care.

Through the ten points of the Code, a clear dividing line is drawn between medical experiments and crimes against humanity, and such crimes or crimes similar to those of World War II are to be prevented with the Nuremberg Code.

The Ten Points of the Nuremberg Code: Content

1. Before the subject can give his consent to experiments, he must be informed of the nature, length, purpose of the experiment, the method, and the means to be used. Furthermore, the subject must be informed of the consequential harm, danger, and inconvenience he or she can expect as a result of the experiment.
The person who directs, orders, or conducts the experiment has a duty to determine the value of consent. This duty may not be delegated to others with impunity.

2. the experiment must be conducted in such a way that the results serve the welfare of society and that these results cannot be achieved by other methods or means of research. Furthermore, the experiments must not be superfluous or arbitrary.


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3. the experiment must be conducted in such a way that the results justify the experiment. Furthermore, it must be based on animal experiments and knowledge about the disease.

4. all unnecessary physical and mental harm and suffering must be avoided in the conduct of the experiment.

5. the experiment must not be carried out under any circumstances if it can be assumed that serious harm or death may result. However, if the experimenter also serves as the subject of the experiment, an exception may be made under certain circumstances.

6. hazards must not exceed the limits imposed by the humanitarian significance of the problem.

7. to protect the subject from any injury, permanent damage, or death, the experiment must be carefully prepared and conducted in an appropriate facility.

8. the person conducting or performing the experiment shall be required to exercise the utmost skill and caution in all aspects of the experiment, and the experiments shall be conducted only by scientifically qualified persons.

9. if the subject reaches a point where he or she is physically or mentally unable to continue the experiment, he or she may terminate the experiment at any time.

10. if, during the experiment, the experimenter has concerns based on his/her judgment or must anticipate injury, permanent damage, or death to the subject, the experiment must be terminated.

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