In Practice

Health research and safeguards: The South African journey

Amaboo Dhai


Health research, as a social good, needs to be conducted in the interests of the common good. Because of the unfortunate exploitation of research participants globally, safeguards for protections are necessary. Most international codes and guidelines originated as responses to the abuse and mistreatment of research subjects. By the 1890s, antivivisectionists were already calling for laws to protect children, as a result of the increasing numbers of institutionalised children being subjected to vaccine experiments in Europe and the USA. Just after the turn of the century, the first attempt to test a polio vaccine was thwarted after the American Public Health Association condemned the programme. In South Africa, medical scientists were busy with discoveries and innovations as far back as the 1800s. In December 1967, the historic first human heart transplant was undertaken in Cape Town. Although it is unclear how much research preceded this procedure, there is no doubt that the operation was done in a research setting, and it had a far-reaching impact.

Author's affiliations

Amaboo Dhai, Steve Biko Centre for Bioethics, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa

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Safeguards; Exploitation; Ethical research; Human dignity

Cite this article

South African Medical Journal 2017;107(5):379-380. DOI:10.7196/SAMJ.2017.v107i5.12435

Article History

Date submitted: 2017-04-25
Date published: 2017-04-25

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