The atrocities committed by Nazi physicians and scientists, in the name of furthering medical science, is an appalling page of the history of medical research. In the wake of World War II, the scientific community strived to develop regulations to guard against future abuses in medical research. However, a particularly sobering thought is that the atrocities in Germany were being carried out in a country that had specific regulations for protecting human research subjects: Nazi Germany was the only European country to have such regulations. A more in-depth look at these regulations reveals institutional or department heads were held accountable, but not the individual researcher. The lesson from this analysis is clear: individual investigators must bear the responsibility of conducting ethical research. Governmental regulations and Institutional Review Boards never can replace investigators who are advocates for the protection of human subjects.
The purpose of this paper is to address issues broadly regarding ethics and prehospital research, with a focus on the topic of informed consent.