The Nuremberg Code

[Public Domain Image] Master-Sergeant
John Chris Woods, “Hangman”,
who hanged the ten condemned Nazi men
after the 1946 Nuremberg Trials,
in Germany.

Woods, John Chris “Hangman”

The Nuremberg Code is the most important document in the history of the ethics of medical research.1-6 The Code was formulated 50 years ago, in August 1947, in Nuremberg, Germany, by American judges sitting in judgment of Nazi doctors accused of conducting murderous and torturous human experiments in the concentration camps (the so-called Doctors' Trial).7 It served as a blueprint for today's principles that ensure the rights of subjects in medical research.

The Doctors' Trial

The main trial at Nuremberg after World War II was conducted by the International Military Tribunal. The tribunal was made up of judges from the four allied powers (the United States, Britain, France, and the former Soviet Union) and was charged with trying Germany's major war criminals. After this first-of-its-kind international trial, the United States conducted 12 additional trials of representative Nazis from various sectors of the Third Reich, including law, finance, ministry, and manufacturing, before American Military Tribunals, also at Nuremberg. The first of these trials, the Doctors' Trial, involved 23 defendants, all but 3 of whom were physicians accused of murder and torture in the conduct of medical experiments on concentration-camp inmates.(1)
1.     International Military Tribunal. Trials of war criminals before the Nuremberg Military Tribunals under Control Council law no. 10. Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1950.


1.               The voluntary consent of the human subject is absolutely essential. This means that the person involved should have legal capacity to give consent; should be so situated as to be able to exercise free power of choice, without the intervention of any element of force, fraud, deceit, duress, over-reaching, or other ulterior form of constraint or coercion; and should have sufficient knowledge and comprehension of the elements of the subject matter involved, as to enable him to make an understanding and enlightened decision. This latter element requires that, before the acceptance of an affirmative decision by the experimental subject, there should be made known to him the nature, duration, and purpose of the experiment; the method and means by which it is to be conducted; all inconveniences and hazards reasonably to be expected; and the effects upon his health or person, which may possibly come from his participation in the experiment.

               The duty and responsibility for ascertaining the quality of the consent rests upon each individual who initiates, directs or engages in the experiment. It is a personal duty and responsibility which may not be delegated to another with impunity.

2.               The experiment should be such as to yield fruitful results for the good of society, unprocurable by other methods or means of study, and not random and unnecessary in nature.

3.                The experiment should be so designed and based on the results of animal experimentation and a knowledge of the natural history of the disease or other problem under study, that the anticipated results will justify the performance of the experiment.

4.                The experiment should be so conducted as to avoid all unnecessary physical and mental suffering and injury.

5.                No experiment should be conducted, where there is an a prior reason to believe that death or disabling injury will occur; except, perhaps, in those experiments where the experimental physicians also serve as subjects.

6.                The degree of risk to be taken should never exceed that determined by the humanitarian
importance of the problem to be solved by the experiment.

7.                Proper preparations should be made and adequate facilities provided to protect the experimental subject against even remote possibilities of injury, disability, or death.

8.                The experiment should be conducted only by scientifically qualified persons. The highest degree of skill and care should be required through all stages of the experiment of those who conduct or engage in the experiment.

9.                During the course of the experiment, the human subject should be at liberty to bring the experiment to an end, if he has reached the physical or mental state, where continuation of the experiment seemed to him to be impossible.

10.                During the course of the experiment, the scientist in charge must be prepared to terminate the experiment at any stage, if he has probable cause to believe, in the exercise of the good faith, superior skill and careful judgement required of him, that a continuation of the experiment is likely to result in injury, disability, or death to the experimental subject.

["Trials of War Criminals before the Nuremberg Military Tribunals under Control Council Law No. 10", Vol. 2, pp. 181-182. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1949.]
Master-Sergeant Woods readies the Gallows at Nuremberg in 1946
[Public Domain Image] Master-Sergeant Woods readies the Gallows at Nuremberg in 1946.

Memorandum in Support of Preliminary Injunction Motion

Shawn E. Abrell, WSBA No. 41054, Pro Hac Vice.
3405 NW 31 st. Circle, Camas, Washington 98607.
Tel.: 503.512.7712; Fax: 503.222.0693.
               Lead Counsel for Plaintiffs

Tyl W. Bakker, OSB No. 90200
621 SW Alder, Suite 621, Portland, Oregon 97205
Tel.: 503.244.4157; Fax: 503.220.1913
               Local Counsel for Plaintiffs

[Excerpt, Page 19/30]

               'According to the underlying premise defined in the ten points of the Nuremberg Code,. WI-FI is an experiment. The Nuremberg Code provides:

               The voluntary consent of the human subject is absolutely essential. ...'
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