Initiated: 1964 17.C
WORLD MEDICAL ASSOCIATION DECLARATION OF HELSINKI
Medical Research Involving Human Subjects
Adopted by the 18th WMA General Assembly
Helsinki, Finland, June 1964
and amended by the
29th WMA General Assembly, Tokyo, Japan, October 1975
35th WMA General Assembly, Venice, Italy, October 1983
41st WMA General Assembly, Hong Kong, September 1989
48th WMA General Assembly, Somerset West, Republic of South Africa, October 1996
WMA General Assembly, Edinburgh, Scotland, October 2000
1. The World Medical Association has developed the Declaration of Helsinki as a statement
of ethical principles to provide guidance to physicians and other participants in medical
research involving human subjects. Medical research involving human subjects includes
research on identifiable human material or identifiable data.
2. It is the duty of the physician to promote and safeguard the health of the people. The
physician’s knowledge and conscience are dedicated to the fulfillment of this duty.
3. The Declaration of Geneva of the World Medical Association binds the physician with
the words, “The health of my patient will be my first consideration,” and the International
Code of Medical Ethics declares that, “A physician shall act only in the patient’s interest
when providing medical care which might have the effect of weakening the physical and
mental condition of the patient.”
4. Medical progress is based on research which ultimately must rest in part on
experimentation involving human subjects.
5. In medical research on human subjects, considerations related to the well-being of the
human subject should take precedence over the interests of science and society.
6. The primary purpose of medical research involving human subjects is to improve
prophylactic, diagnostic and therapeutic procedures and the understanding of the
aetiology and pathogenesis of disease. Even the best proven prophylactic, diagnostic, and
therapeutic methods must continuously be challenged through research for their
effectiveness, efficiency, accessibility and quality.
7. In current medical practice and in medical research, most prophylactic, diagnostic and
therapeutic procedures involve risks and burdens.
8. Medical research is subject to ethical standards that promote respect for all human beings
and protect their health and rights. Some research populations are vulnerable and need
special protection. The particular needs of the economically and medically disadvantaged
must be recognized. Special attention is also required for those who cannot give or refuse
consent for themselves, for those who may be subject to giving consent under duress, for
those who will not benefit personally from the research and for those for whom the
research is combined with care.
9. Research Investigators should be aware of the ethical, legal and regulatory requirements
for research on human subjects in their own countries as well as applicable international
requirements. No national ethical, legal or regulatory requirement should be allowed to
reduce or eliminate any of the protections for human subjects set forth in this Declaration.
B. BASIC PRINCIPLES FOR ALL MEDICAL RESEARCH
10. It is the duty of the physician in medical research to protect the life, health, privacy, and
dignity of the human subject.
11. Medical research involving human subjects must conform to generally accepted scientific
principles, be based on a thorough knowledge of the scientific literature, other relevant
sources of information, and on adequate laboratory and, where appropriate, animal
12. Appropriate caution must be exercised in the conduct of research which may affect the
environment, and the welfare of animals used for research must be respected.
13. The design and performance of each experimental procedure involving human subjects
should be clearly formulated in an experimental protocol. This protocol should be
submitted for consideration, comment, guidance, and where appropriate, approval to a
specially appointed ethical review committee, which must be independent of the
investigator, the sponsor or any other kind of undue influence. This independent
committee should be in conformity with the laws and regulations of the country in which
the research experiment is performed. The committee has the right to monitor ongoing
trials. The researcher has the obligation to provide monitoring information to the
committee, especially any serious adverse events. The researcher should also submit to
the committee, for review, information regarding funding, sponsors, institutional
affiliations, other potential conflicts of interest and incentives for subjects.
14. The research protocol should always contain a statement of the ethical considerations
involved and should indicate that there is compliance with the principles enunciated in
15. Medical research involving human subjects should be conducted only by scientifically
qualified persons and under the supervision of a clinically competent medical person. The
responsibility for the human subject must always rest with a medically qualified person
and never rest on the subject of the research, even though the subject has given consent.
16. Every medical research project involving human subjects should be preceded by careful
assessment of predictable risks and burdens in comparison with foreseeable benefits to
the subject or to others. This does not preclude the participation of healthy volunteers in
medical research. The design of all studies should be publicly available.
17. Physicians should abstain from engaging in research projects involving human subjects
unless they are confident that the risks involved have been adequately assessed and can be
satisfactorily managed. Physicians should cease any investigation if the risks are found to
outweigh the potential benefits or if there is conclusive proof of positive and beneficial
18. Medical research involving human subjects should only be conducted if the importance of
the objective outweighs the inherent risks and burdens to the subject. This is especially
important when the human subjects are healthy volunteers.
19. Medical research is only justified if there is a reasonable likelihood that the populations in
which the research is carried out stand to benefit from the results of the research.
20. The subjects must be volunteers and informed participants in the research project.
21. The right of research subjects to safeguard their integrity must always be respected. Every
precaution should be taken to respect the privacy of the subject, the confidentiality of the
patient’s information and to minimize the impact of the study on the subject’s physical
and mental integrity and on the personality of the subject.
22. In any research on human beings, each potential subject must be adequately informed of
the aims, methods, sources of funding, any possible conflicts of interest, institutional
affiliations of the researcher, the anticipated benefits and potential risks of the study and
the discomfort it may entail. The subject should be informed of the right to abstain from
participation in the study or to withdraw consent to participate at any time without reprisal.
After ensuring that the subject has understood the information, the physician should then
obtain the subject’s freely-given informed consent, preferably in writing. If the consent
cannot be obtained in writing, the non-written consent must be formally documented and
23. When obtaining informed consent for the research project the physician should be
particularly cautious if the subject is in a dependent relationship with the physician or may
consent under duress. In that case the informed consent should be obtained by a
well-informed physician who is not engaged in the investigation and who is completely
independent of this relationship.
24. For a research subject who is legally incompetent, physically or mentally incapable of
giving consent or is a legally incompetent minor, the investigator must obtain informed
consent from the legally authorized representative in accordance with applicable law.
These groups should not be included in research unless the research is necessary to
promote the health of the population represented and this research cannot instead be
performed on legally competent persons.
25. When a subject deemed legally incompetent, such as a minor child, is able to give assent
to decisions about participation in research, the investigator must obtain that assent in
addition to the consent of the legally authorized representative.
26. Research on individuals from whom it is not possible to obtain consent, including proxy
or advance consent, should be done only if the physical/mental condition that prevents
obtaining informed consent is a necessary characteristic of the research population. The
specific reasons for involving research subjects with a condition that renders them unable
to give informed consent should be stated in the experimental protocol for consideration
and approval of the review committee. The protocol should state that consent to remain in
the research should be obtained as soon as possible from the individual or a legally
27. Both authors and publishers have ethical obligations. In publication of the results of
research, the investigators are obliged to preserve the accuracy of the results. Negative as
well as positive results should be published or otherwise publicly available. Sources of
funding, institutional affiliations and any possible conflicts of interest should be declared
in the publication. Reports of experimentation not in accordance with the principles laid
down in this Declaration should not be accepted for publication.
C. ADDITIONAL PRINCIPLES FOR MEDICAL RESEARCH COMBINED WITH
28. The physician may combine medical research with medical care, only to the extent that
the research is justified by its potential prophylactic, diagnostic or therapeutic value.
When medical research is combined with medical care, additional standards apply to
protect the patients who are research subjects.
29. The benefits, risks, burdens and effectiveness of a new method should be tested against
those of the best current prophylactic, diagnostic, and therapeutic methods. This does not
exclude the use of placebo, or no treatment, in studies where no proven prophylactic,
diagnostic or therapeutic method exists.
30. At the conclusion of the study, every patient entered into the study should be assured of
access to the best proven prophylactic, diagnostic and therapeutic methods identified by
31. The physician should fully inform the patient which aspects of the care are related to the
research. The refusal of a patient to participate in a study must never interfere with the
32. In the treatment of a patient, where proven prophylactic, diagnostic and therapeutic
methods do not exist or have been ineffective, the physician, with informed consent from
the patient, must be free to use unproven or new prophylactic, diagnostic and therapeutic
measures, if in the physician’s judgement it offers hope of saving life, re-establishing
health or alleviating suffering. Where possible, these measures should be made the object
of research, designed to evaluate their safety and efficacy. In all cases, new information
should be recorded and, where appropriate, published. The other relevant guidelines of
this Declaration should be followed.
Initiated: 1964 17.C