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Codes of Ethics versus Human Protection in Biomedical Research
Biomedical research is research that mainly targets use of natural sciences in medicine and sometimes, it involves experimentation with living animals, including humans (Biomedical Engineering Society, 2012). A code of ethics in a biomedical research governs the procedure applicable to researchers include their relationship to the subjects, including promoting subject welfare, observe subject rights, comply with set regulations and maintain impartiality to external influences (Biomedical Engineering Society, 2012). Code of ethics, while regulating the general medicine field, cannot guarantee protection for the subject. The major reason is because, most research involves undiscovered results for the particular field, and researchers are unable to predict or prevent undesired results, or revert to the subject’s initial status if exposure occurs. Codes of ethics, however, do provide protection to a subject’s rights and privacy if properly used (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy) (Rid & Wendler, 2011).
Institutional Review Boards IRBs are mandated with enhancing protection and safety of human subjects in biomedical research (Jones, 1993). While they are sometimes significant, IRBs do not always protect human subjects (Rid & Wendler, 2011). The most common reason for this is because of conflicts of interest arising from the research. For instance, in certain circumstances, board members are linked (usually in hidden ways) to companies doing research and are therefore beneficiaries, while on the other hand researchers have racial prejudice against subjects (Heller, 1972). A case in mind is the Tuskegee Syphilis experiments conducted in US from 1932 to 1972 in Alabama (Jones, 1993). The study had 600 black persons under study for syphilis natural progression against their knowledge, where medical officials knowingly refused these subjects medical help even while penicillin had overtaken their research as an effective cure for syphilis (Jones, 1993).