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Ethical reflections on Edward Jenner’s experimental treatment
  1. Hugh Davies
  1. Correspondence to:
 H Davies
 Central Office for Research Ethics Committees (COREC), 50 Eastbourne Terrace, London W2 6 LX, UK; Hugh.davies{at}


In 1798 Dr Edward Jenner published his famous account of “vaccination”. Some claim that a Research Ethics Committee, had it existed in the 1790s, might have rejected his work. I provide the historical context of his work and argue that it addressed a major risk to the health of the community, and, given the devastating nature of smallpox and the significant risk of variolation, the only alternative preventative measure, Jenner’s study had purpose, justification and a base in the practice of the day.

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  • Competing interests: None.

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