Universal

Declaration of Geneva (1948)

The Declaration of Geneva was established by the World Medical Association (WMA) in 1948. It was a response to the crimes against humanity committed in the name of medical research at the hands of Nazi physicians during WWII. The Declaration affirmed physicians’ commitment to the humanitarian goals of medicine and was therefore intended as a modern version of the outdated Hippocratic Oath. Since 1948, the Declaration of Geneva has been amended several times to reflect the intricacies of medical practice in the present day

DECLARATION OF GENEVA

Adopted by the 2nd General Assembly of the World Medical Association, Geneva, Switzerland, September 1948
and amended by the 22nd World Medical Assembly, Sydney, Australia, August 1968
and the 35th World Medical Assembly, Venice, Italy, October 1983
and the 46th WMA General Assembly, Stockholm, Sweden, September 1994
and editorially revised at the 170th Council Session, Divonne-les-Bains, France, May 2005 and
the 173rd Council Session, Divonne-les-Bains, France, May 2006

AT THE TIME OF BEING ADMITTED AS A MEMBER OF THE MEDICAL PROFESSION:
I SOLEMNLY PLEDGE to consecrate my life to the service of humanity;
I WILL GIVE to my teachers the respect and gratitude that is their due;
I WILL PRACTISE my profession with conscience and dignity;
THE HEALTH OF MY PATIENT will be my first consideration;
I WILL RESPECT the secrets that are confided in me, even after the patient has died;
I WILL MAINTAIN by all the means in my power, the honour and the noble traditions of the medical profession;
MY COLLEAGUES will be my sisters and brothers;
I WILL NOT PERMIT considerations of age, disease or disability, creed, ethnic origin, gender, nationality, political affiliation, race, sexual orientation, social standing or any other factor to intervene between my duty and my patient;
I WILL MAINTAIN the utmost respect for human life;
I WILL NOT USE my medical knowledge to violate human rights and civil liberties, even under threat;
I MAKE THESE PROMISES solemnly, freely and upon my honour.

Nuremberg Code (1947)

The Nuremberg Code is a set of principles governing informed consent in medical research. The Code was composed in response to the appalling experiments that were conducted by Nazi Physicians at various concentration camps during the Second World War. Prisoners were used as subjects for inhumane experimentation, the results of which caused undue suffering and often lead to prisoners’ death. Within the Nazi Regime, the doctors’ goal was no longer the care and well-being of the patient, but rather the investigation of a scientific hypothesis. Subjects were forced to participate in experiments where they were injected with malaria or typhus, exposed to freezing temperatures for hours at a time, thrown into chambers with mustard gas, and many other desperately inhumane experiments.

The Nuremberg Code was the first document to provide guidelines on the use of human subjects for medical research. In essence, it was established to protect the subjects of such research and to ultimately define ethical standards of medical research. The Nuremberg Code was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in 1948.

The Nuremburg Code can be found on the following site at Dalhousie University.

Declaration of Helsinki (1964)

The Declaration of Helsinki, like the Declaration of Geneva, was developed by the World Medical Association (WMA) in 1964. It expands on the principles regarding informed consent that were first introduced in 1947 with the Nuremberg Code. The Declaration of Helsinki outlines ethical principles governing medical research involving human subjects and includes research on “identifiable human material or identifiable data.” The use of human subjects in medical research is permitted only if the purpose of such research is to improve diagnostic and therapeutic procedures and to better understand disease. As stated in the declaration, the well-being of the patient takes precedence over the interests of society and scientific advancement.

The Declaration of Helsinki also identifies vulnerable populations that require special consideration and protection. A surrogate decision maker acting in the best interest of the individual is required to make decisions on behalf of the individual if he/she is physically or mentally unable to give or refuse consent, legally incompetent, or a minor. Medical research within these groups is permitted only if it improves the health of that population and if research cannot instead be conducted on legally competent persons. In addition to its principles surrounding vulnerable populations, the Declaration of Helsinki also outlines regulations concerning placebo-controlled trials and the minimizing of possible risks to subjects of medical research.

For further information on the Declaration of Helsinki, refer to the World Medical Association website:

International Charter on Medical Professionalism

The international charter was a joint project by the ABIM Foundation (American Board of Internal Medicine), the ACP-ASIM Foundation (American College of Physicians-American Society of Internal Medicine), and the European Federation of Internal Medicine. In 2002, the Charter on Medical Professionalism was published as a response to changes in health care delivery systems that were occurring throughout the developed world. The values of the medical profession were being increasingly threatened by corporate agendas and the emergence of for-profit health care markets. The project’s goal was to reaffirm humanistic qualities back into modern medicine through the development of a universal charter.

The charter includes a short introduction and rationale followed by 3 main principles and 10 commitments to guide physicians in their professional behaviour. As stated in the document itself, the Charter on Medical Professionalism is “intended to encourage such dedication and to promote an action agenda for the profession of medicine that is universal in scope and purpose.”

The International Charter on Medical Professionalism is available online through the ABIM Foundation website:

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Last updated: 2016.03.11