Clinical Trial History: Human Protections Through the Years and Across the Globe
Clinical research, by its very nature, is continually evolving as we learn through the scientific process and sometimes through human behavior. The Hippocratic Oath, established in 500 BC, bound a physician to uphold professional ethical standards. But this solemnly sworn oath was not a requirement, and it was followed by a long period of stasis. Advances in protections for people in research weren’t put in place until thousands of years later, and often these were developed in response to particular abuses or scandals.
For example, the Nuremburg Code of international ethics was established in 1947 in response to the atrocities of World War II, some of which were committed in the name of science. The 1960s and 1970s gave rise to additional human protections around the globe and made the practice of bioethics more standard.
It may be surprising to realize the protections we expect and perhaps take for granted today are only a few decades old. Take a look at a few key events in the graphic below.