The 2008 Declaration of Helsinki — First among Equals in Research Ethics?
Version of Record online: 26 MAR 2010
© 2010 American Society of Law, Medicine & Ethics, Inc.
The Journal of Law, Medicine & Ethics
Volume 38, Issue 1, pages 143–148, Spring 2010
How to Cite
Rid, A. and Schmidt, H. (2010), The 2008 Declaration of Helsinki — First among Equals in Research Ethics?. The Journal of Law, Medicine & Ethics, 38: 143–148. doi: 10.1111/j.1748-720X.2010.00474.x
- Issue online: 26 MAR 2010
- Version of Record online: 26 MAR 2010
The World Medical Association's (WMA) Declaration of Helsinki is one of the most important and influential international research ethics documents. Its most recent 2008 version declares unprecedented universal primacy over all existing national or international ethical, legal, or regulatory requirements. This self-proclaimed status as a set of minimal ethical standards raises important questions about the Declaration's appropriate normative status. The present paper argues that the new claim of ethical primacy is problematic and makes the Declaration unnecessarily vulnerable to criticism. Future revisions of the Declaration should therefore remove this claim and strengthen the document, first, by clarifying its normative status as a set of strong default recommendations, to be followed unless there is compelling ethical reason to do otherwise; and second, by improving the substance of the Declaration through further precision, specification, and argument.