J Med Ethics doi:10.1136/medethics-2011-100123
  • Global medical ethics
  • Paper

Ethical approval in developing countries is not optional

  1. Padam P Simkhada2,3
  1. 1School of Health and Social Care, Bournemouth University, Bournemouth, UK
  2. 2Manmohan Memorial Institute of Health Sciences, Kathmandu, Nepal
  3. 3The School of Health and Related Research, University of Sheffield, Sheffield, UK
  1. Correspondence to Professor Edwin Roland van Teijlingen, Bournemouth University, School of Health and Social Care, Royal London House, Christchurch Road, Bournemouth BH1 3LT, UK; evteijlingen{at}
  1. Contributors ERvT: outlining, writing and reviewing of manuscript. PPS: writing and reviewing of manuscript.

  • Received 13 July 2011
  • Revised 4 November 2011
  • Accepted 27 December 2011
  • Published Online First 16 February 2012


When conducting health and medical research it is important to do the research ethically and to apply for prior ethical approval from the relevant authorities. The latter requirement is true for developed countries as well as developing countries. The authors argue that simply applying for research ethics approval from an institutional review board at a university based in a developed country is not enough to start a health research project in a developing country. The paper also suggests a number of reasons why researchers may fail to seek local research ethics permission in developing countries. The authors use a recent paper reporting research conducted in Nepal and published in an international journal as a case study to highlight the importance of being sensitive to local requirements regarding applying for and registering health and medical research.


  • Competing interests None.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

Responses to this article