J Med Ethics 31:35-38 doi:10.1136/jme.2004.010470
  • Research ethics

Eliminating the daily life risks standard from the definition of minimal risk

  1. D B Resnik
  1. Correspondence to:
 Dr D B Resnik
 National Institute of Environmental Health Science, National Institute of Health, Box 12233, NH06, Research Triangle Park, NC 27709;
  • Received 1 September 2004
  • Accepted 6 September 2004


The phrase “minimal risk,” as defined in the United States’ federal research regulations, is ambiguous and poorly defined. This article argues that most of the ambiguity that one finds in the phrase stems from the “daily life risks” standard in the definition of minimal risk. In this article, the author argues that the daily life risks standard should be dropped and that “minimal risk” should be defined as simply “the probability and magnitude of the harm or discomfort anticipated in research are not greater than those encountered during the performance of routine physical or psychological examinations or tests”.


  • Competing interest: I have no competing interests to declare.

  • The ideas and opinions expressed in this article are the author’s personal views and do not represent the views of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, the National Institute of Health, or the US government.