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November 27, 1996

The Nuremberg Code and the Nuremberg Trial: A Reappraisal

Author Affiliations

From the Yale Law School, New Haven, Conn.

JAMA. 1996;276(20):1662-1666. doi:10.1001/jama.1996.03540200048030

The Nuremberg Code includes 10 principles to guide physician-investigators in experiments involving human subjects. These principles, particularly the first principle on "voluntary consent," primarily were based on legal concepts because medical codes of ethics existent at the time of the Nazi atrocities did not address consent and other safeguards for human subjects. The US judges who presided over the proceedings did not intend the Code to apply only to the case before them, to be a response to the atrocities committed by the Nazi physicians, or to be inapplicable to research as it is customarily carried on in medical institutions. Instead, a careful reading of the judgment suggests that they wrote the Code for the practice of human experimentation whenever it is being conducted.

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