Patient Rights (cont.)
IN THIS ARTICLE
Medical Research and Patients' Rights
The issue of patient rights in medical research has developed over the years because of unethical practices that have occurred in the past. The Nuremberg Code was formulated in 1947 because of the trial of Nazi physicians who had experimented on unwilling subjects. The Code states that "the voluntary consent of the human subject is absolutely essential."
In 1964, the Declaration of Helsinki softened the stipulations of the Nuremberg Code by allowing the legal guardians of incompetent persons to provide consent on their behalf, at least for "therapeutic" research.
After the exploitation of subjects in the Tuskegee study of syphilis, the National Commission for the Protection of Human Subjects of Biomedical and Behavioral Research was created in 1974. The Commission discussed the problem of using vulnerable groups as research subjects. An article in the Journal of the American Medical Association proposed seven requirements that provide a framework for evaluating the ethics of clinical research studies that is generally adopted by medical researchers:
Clinical trial: As in medical treatment, patients have the right to refuse to participate in clinical research, and this should not affect their care. Enrollment in a clinical trial also should not prevent a patient from obtaining timely and appropriate medical care.
In summary, patient rights are continually evolving and are linked to governmental agencies and their regulations. Failure to respect these patient rights may have severe penalties imposed on those individuals, businesses, and ancillary health agencies that violate patient rights. However, if patients have rights, they should remember that patient rights also come with responsibilities. For example, patients need to be responsible to listen and act on the advice of their doctor(s), to tell the truth when asked questions (for example, "Do you use any illegal drugs," "How many alcoholic beverages do you drink per day" and many others). When there is mutual respect and honesty between healthcare professionals and patients, there is seldom any problems with patient rights.
Medically reviewed by Martin E. Zipser, MD; American Board of Surgery
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 3/18/2015
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