Declaration of Helsinki

This post is part of 'Domain | General' series

The Declaration of Helsinki is a statement of ethical principles established by the World Medical Association (WMA) that provides guidance to physicians and other participants in medical research involving human subjects. It is widely regarded as the cornerstone document in the field of research ethics and serves as the basis for laws, regulations, and ethical guidelines worldwide.


The Declaration of Helsinki was first adopted by the WMA in 1964, following a series of scandals involving unethical medical research practices, such as the Tuskegee syphilis study in the United States, which involved withholding treatment from African American men with syphilis. The Declaration was intended to provide a set of principles that would guide medical researchers in their treatment of human subjects and promote ethical practices in medical research.

Over the years, the Declaration has been revised and updated several times to reflect advances in medical research and changes in the ethical and legal landscape. The most recent revision, known as the 2013 version, provides guidelines for conducting medical research in a manner that protects the rights and welfare of human subjects.


The Declaration of Helsinki outlines a set of principles for medical research involving human subjects. These principles are based on the idea that the well-being of the individual research participant should take precedence over the interests of science and society as a whole. Some of the key principles of the Declaration include:

  1. Respect for individuals: Researchers should respect the dignity, privacy, and autonomy of research participants and ensure that they are fully informed about the nature and purpose of the research.

  2. Beneficence: Research should be designed and carried out in a manner that maximizes the benefits to individuals and society while minimizing the risks and harms.

  3. Non-maleficence: Researchers should ensure that research does not cause harm or injury to research participants.

  4. Justice: Research should be conducted in a fair and equitable manner, with a focus on the needs and interests of vulnerable populations.

  5. Scientific rigor: Research should be conducted in a scientifically rigorous manner, with appropriate attention to design, methodology, and analysis.


The Declaration of Helsinki is not a legal document, but it has been influential in shaping laws, regulations, and ethical guidelines related to medical research. Many countries have adopted the Declaration as a basis for their own guidelines and regulations related to medical research, and it is widely recognized as a standard of ethical practice.

In addition to its role in shaping ethical standards, the Declaration of Helsinki is also used as a basis for reviewing and approving research protocols by ethics committees and regulatory agencies around the world. Researchers who wish to conduct medical research involving human subjects must demonstrate that their research protocols are consistent with the principles outlined in the Declaration.


The Declaration of Helsinki provides a set of ethical principles that guide medical research involving human subjects. It is widely regarded as a cornerstone document in the field of research ethics and has played a key role in shaping laws, regulations, and ethical guidelines related to medical research. By promoting ethical practices in medical research, the Declaration has helped to ensure that the rights and welfare of human subjects are protected and that medical research is conducted in a manner that promotes the well-being of individuals and society as a whole.

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