The Nuremberg Code of 1947: Ensuring Ethical Human Experimentation

In this video, the journalist discusses the Nuremberg code of 1947, which was developed in response to the human experimentation atrocities committed during World War II. The code consists of ten points that outline ethical guidelines for human experimentation, including the necessity of voluntary and informed consent, the importance of previous knowledge and research, the avoidance of unnecessary suffering, and the proportional risk to potential benefit. The journalist emphasizes the significance of the code in ensuring the protection of human subjects and reflects on the terrifying actions of doctors and nurses who participated in the elimination of individuals they deemed substandard. The video also showcases a community health project in Uganda focused on providing food security for underprivileged children.

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Key Insights:

  • The Nuremberg code of 1947 was developed in response to the human experimentation atrocities committed during World War II.
  • The code consists of ten points that guide ethical human experimentation.
  • Key principles of the code include voluntary consent, the necessity of the experiment, reliance on previous knowledge, avoidance of unnecessary suffering, and the absence of death as a result of experimentation.
  • The code also emphasizes proportional risk and benefit, close supervision by qualified professionals, the right of subjects to opt out, and the termination of experiments if harm is deemed unacceptable.
  • The Nuremberg code serves as a warning from history and reminds us to learn from past mistakes to prevent their repetition.
  • In a brighter note, a community health project in Uganda focuses on addressing food insecurity issues by purchasing maize in large quantities and providing meals for underprivileged children.
  • The project aims to empower communities and promote food security, and it is supported by the channel’s viewership.


Well, it’s Wednesday the 19th of September and a warm welcome to this video. Now, today’s subject couldn’t be more serious. It’s about the Nuremberg code of 1947. During the Second World War, of course, many atrocities were committed, and a certain group of atrocities were experimentation on human beings, deeply evil acts. Now, my life kind of changed a bit really when I went to this Villa here. This is the Vancy Conference Villa, and on the 20th of January 1942, Reinhardt Heydrich and Adolf Eichmann and cronies met here in this beautiful setting near Berlin to work out what they euphemistically called the final solution. And this whole Villa, in immensely good taste, it has to be said but very distressingly, has been converted into a Memorial/stroke museum for victims of human experimentation. Now, I’m not going to show you the material that I photographed in there but if you do get the chance to visit, as I say, life-changing experience. Nuremberg code, based on 10 points. The first one, all people that are experimented on in human experimentation, and this is sometimes necessary. We think about randomized double-blind control trials, for example, but they must enter it with complete free will. It must be utterly voluntary, and they must have complete informed consent to know what they’re doing. I’ll pick some of the details on that later but free will, informed consent. People must know what they’re getting into unambiguously. Second point, the human experiment must be the only way to get the information, and that information must be worthwhile. It must be worth getting that information, and it must be based on previous knowledge, possibly animal experimentation which we could debate about as a separate ethical issue, of course, but based on the best available science. So, this is not just some sort of leap into the dark, some completely untested technology, for example, they were experimenting on millions of people with. It must be based on the best available science and previous knowledge with full experimentation getting up to that stage. Fourthly, it must avoid unnecessarily any unnecessary suffering. There must be no unnecessary suffering in human experimentation. Not saying there should be zero suffering but it shouldn’t be unnecessary but of course, it’s all entered into completely voluntarily. I’ve had experiments done on me at work but I’ve volunteered to go into it. A physiological calibration of instruments, for example, have been done on me when I was ill and fit. Fifth point, death will not occur. There must be no reason to expect that subjects will die. Now, there is a caveat here that the experimenting doctor may choose to experiment on himself and if he dies, then that’s his informed consent. But apart from that, death will not occur, certainly not to the subjects. Sixth point, though the risk that is taken must be proportional to the potential benefit and the outcome that comes from the experiment. So, this has got to be a reasonably expected beneficial outcome which is proportional to the risk which has been taken. There must be anticipation of any possible injuries or deaths even if this is a remote possibility. This must be anticipated. In other words, people carrying out human experimentation must think ahead, must anticipate what could possibly go wrong here. Has this always been done in the time period since 1947? It’s up to your interpretation. Eighthly, the research must be conducted and closely supervised by proper doctors and scientists. So, it’s not, „Take this experimental treatment off you go, live your life as normal. I might see if there’s a problem.“ But, no, it has to be closely, properly supervised, either relevant to experts in the field. Ninthly, the subject may opt out at any time. So, this subject can say, „Nope, had enough of this, I’m opting out. Forget it, walk away at any time,“ completely free to do so. And the tenth point is, the doctors and scientists conducting the research must be prepared to terminate the research if they think there is a significant or realistic risk of unacceptable levels of harm to the individual being experimented on. So, that’s the Nuremberg code of 1947. Now, I am going to post the whole thing for your perusal. I think we’ll have to just have a quick look through some of the main points now on the overhead, so this is the Nuremberg code 1947. It’s in many historical documents. It was doctors on trial, doctors and nurses after the war, and it’s frightening to think that in a relatively modern sophisticated country, doctors and nurses collaborated with the elimination of human beings, other human beings they thought were substandard and deserve to be eliminated. The doctors and nurses could actively take part in this because they were told to is simply terrifying. Doctors and nurses do what they’re told, it would appear in this situation, to the point of ending the lives of other people. This comes from the German doctors‘ trial 1946. Now, the doctors argued it’s all- this is the codes here, you can look them up for yourself. I’ll put some references in. Their experiments were no different from those that had been conducted before and there was no law anyway, so they could do what they wanted. That was their argument. So, as a result of this, the permissible experiments permissible medical experiments were drawn up by this Nuremberg code, part of the Nuremberg Trial process after the Second World War, published by the American government in this document. Here’s the first point: voluntary consent of the human subject was essential. They have to have legal capacity to give consent, so people that don’t have the capacity cannot be experimented on. They should have completely free to exercise personal choice without any intervention, element of force, fraud, deceit, duress, overreaching, and all the legal safeguard languages that are included. There must be no coercion. They must have sufficient knowledge to give informed consent, understanding, an enlightened decision before they say yes to anything. They should know the nature, duration, and purpose of the experiment. They should know the methods, all inconveniences and hazards that can be reasonably expected, and other adverse effects should be made clear before the start of the experiment before they decide if they want to cooperate. This must be open, clear, and above board. Full information can be given, and part of the reason I’m angry is because I wasn’t given full information in some events that have occurred over the past few years by people that should have given me full information over the past few years. How can you make an informed decision without full disclosure by those leaders that have power over us? The duty and responsibility of the person conducting the experiment. It’s a personal duty. They have to do that themselves. They can’t delegate it to someone else. The experimentary dude, it should yield fruitful results. Can’t get it by other means. Not some random hair-brained idea. It doesn’t actually say there shouldn’t be a financial motive in the Nuremberg code, but maybe we should add that as point 11. There should be no financial motive by the experimenter on those being experimented on, to make money out of people being experimented on. That is so appalling. It didn’t even seem to be considered in 1947. This was ideological rather than financial. But to me, it goes without saying that people should not be experimented on for others to make money out of. 3. The experiment should be based on previous experimentation with full knowledge. Not some hair-brained idea that we simply don’t know what the outcomes will be if we have full knowledge, and we’re just building the next stage. Then we’re more likely to get it right than if it’s a completely new idea. 4. The experiment should avoid unnecessary harm and suffering. 5. No experiments should be conducted if there’s an a priori reason believing death or disabling injury will occur, except perhaps where the experimenter themselves takes that risk upon themselves. And there are many noble examples of self-experimenters in history. John Hunter famously infected himself with sexually transmitted pus to work out the nature of those form of diseases. Barry Marshall infected himself with Helicobacter pylori to demonstrate the effectiveness of his eradication therapy and went on to save untold millions of lives from peptic ulceration. 6. The degree of risk should never exceed that determined by the importance of the problem to be solved. The proportionality, proper preparation should be made and adequate facilities provided to protect experimental subjects against even the remote possibility of death. If there’s any possibility of the subject dying, the experiment should not be carried out. It’s very simple. 8. Experiment should only be conducted by very highly qualified people and should be well supervised. Now, there’s no point having three well-qualified people who live for example in Geneva, saying, „Oh, we should do this.“ They should be experimenting, every supervising every single subject that’s being experimented on. We need the expertise and the supervision together, high degrees of skill. 9. Subject can back out at any time and the experiment may need to be brought to an end at any time. They must be fully prepared to do this. That’s the Nuremberg code 1947. Makes a lot of sense to me. I’d like to see a new clause inserted for financial gain. But it’s a pretty comprehensive, well-drawn-up document. After the doctor’s trial at the time, the indictment on Humanity, that it needed to be done in the first place. Of course, have we moved on from then? Of course, we hope so. If history does anything, it’s a warning. History is a warning for the future. Not going to over-interpret, we’ll leave it there. Now, let’s finish on a brighter note, for goodness sake. This is from our community health project in Uganda. Now, we’re actually buying at the moment, maize, because it’s quite cheap in Uganda at the moment, and it gets very expensive later on, and poor people can’t afford to buy it. So, we’re buying the maize. We’ve got a mill now, so we’re going to mill it and sort of kind of spread the prices out so poor people don’t starve. And we’re also feeding directly 100 poor children. So, let me talk about it and then, yeah, we’ll just do just two minutes. Give it two minutes, a great project. I’m totally convinced by it. So, I want to share with you some information from our guidance and then some good news from Dr. John. As well, I’ll start with a report from our guidance. So, we are in a harvesting season in the community. Actually, harvesting season is ending, but the good thing is we were able to harvest 1.8 tons of maize from our gardens. We also harvested, and the beans, so we are going to be able to provide food for those ones who don’t have a school going children also. So, we are very happy. We hope to provide for at least 100 children a meal, at least for some good months. So, the good news is Dr. John sent us money that we used to buy 13 tons of maize. We are doing this because during the harvesting period, the price of maize and other foods is usually low. And since people don’t have money because they sell this food sometimes to support themselves on top of eating, so people from different areas and outside the country come and buy this food. And this leads to food insecurity and hiking of prices just after a short time. So, we decided to buy food in large quantities. And we are still buying in case when there is someone who is interested in buying for us. The idea is we want to store food in large quantities from the community, such that in time of, yeah, there we go. So, when he says „when refridgeries“, he means the aquacultural land that we’ve bought, we’ve got 1.8 tons of maize from there, plus the beans for the protein. Also, the beans, of course, are legumes, so they’re plowed back into the soil. So, soil maintenance is a very big part of this. And at the moment in Africa, there are corporate interests buying up agricultural land. So, I’m glad that we’ve got at least this small piece that we’ve got a completely legal trust with the Ugandan government now to make that land secure. Now, when he says „when he says I sent money“, that he means the channel sent money. So, thank you if you’ve watched the channel. That helps in this project. And we bought 13 tons, and we’ve just been able to send some more money. So, it’s going up to 20 tons now. So, it’s really going to help in food security for that area. And as well as that, maybe even more importantly, this is a model that can be followed in other parts of Africa. It’s community-based. This is not aid. We don’t do aid. It is empowerment, of course. If you’d like to be involved in this, we’ll put some links below. You can talk directly. So, interesting. We’re doing the agricultural food security work as well as the direct medical work, of course. So, a brighter note to end on. Sorry, the Nuremberg code bit was a bit depressing, but I think it needed to be discussed because we have to learn from the mistakes of history. Otherwise, we are destined to repeat them. Thank you for watching.