Ethics in Clinical Research: The Indian Perspective
Ethics in clinical research focuses largely on identifying and implementing the acceptable conditions for exposure of some individuals to risks and burdens for the benefit of society at large. Ethical guidelines for clinical research were formulated only after discovery of inhumane behaviour with participants during research experiments. The Nuremberg Code was the first international code laying ethical principles for clinical research. With increasing research all over, World Health Organization formulated guidelines in the form of Declaration of Helsinki in 1964. The US laid down its guidelines for ethical principles in the Belmont Report after discovery of the Tuskegee’s Syphilis study. The Indian Council of Medical Research has laid down the ‘Ethical Guidelines for Biomedical Research on Human Subjects’ in the year 2000 which were revised in 2006. It gives twelve general principles to be followed by all biomedical researchers working in the country. The Ethics Committee stands as the bridge between the researcher and the ethical guidelines of the country. The basic responsibility of the Ethics Committee is to ensure an independent, competent and timely review of all ethical aspects of the project proposals received in order to safeguard the dignity, rights, safety and well-being of all actual or potential research participants. A well-documented informed consent process is the hallmark of any ethical research work. Informed consent respects individual’s autonomy, to participate or not to participate in research. Concepts of vulnerable populations, therapeutic misconception and post trial access hold special importance in ethical conduct of research, especially in developing countries like India, where most of the research participants are uneducated and economically backward.