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Extending the boundaries of the Declaration of Helsinki: a case study of an unethical experiment in a non-medical setting
  1. Elihu D Richter,
  2. Paul Barach,
  3. Tamar Berman,
  4. G Ben-David,
  5. Zvi Weinberger
  1. Hebrew University-Hadassah, Jerusalem, Israel, University of Chicago, and Jerusalem College of Technology


    To examine the ethical issues involved in governmental decisions with potential health risks, we review the history of the decision to raise the interurban speed limit in Israel in light of its impact on road death and injury. In 1993, the Israeli Ministry of Transportation initiated an “experiment” to raise the interurban speed limit from 90 to 100 kph. The “experiment” did not include a protocol and did not specify cut-off points for early termination in the case of adverse results. After the raise in the speed limit, the death toll on interurban roads rose as a result of a sudden increase in speeds and case fatality rates. The committee's decision is a case study in unfettered human experimentation and public health risks when the setting is non-medical and lacks a defined ethical framework. The case study states the case for extending Helsinki type safeguards to experimentation in non-medical settings.

    • Declaration of Helsinki
    • human experimentation
    • speed limit

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    • Elihu D Richter, MD, MPH, is Head of the Center for Injury Prevention and Unit of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, Hebrew University-Hadassah School of Public Health and Community Medicine, Jerusalem, Israel. Paul Barach MD, MPH, specialises in Anaesthesia and Critical Care and is Director of the Center for Patient Safety, Pritzker School of Medicine, University of Chicago, Illinois, USA. Tamar Berman, BA, is a candidate for an MS degree in Environmental Sciences, Hebrew University. G Ben-David, PhD, is a Nuclear Physicist and an authority on speed cameras in the center. Zvi Weinberger, BS, is a Physicist and Chairman of the Department of Electrooptics, Jerusalem College of Technology and President Emeritus of Jerusalem College of Technology.

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