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Biomedical Ethics: Welcome

A launch pad for information about biomedical ethics.

Finding Ebooks and Ejournals

The best way to find Ebooks is with the Medical Ebooks Search.  There are subject sets for public health and for epidemiology, so start by picking the one most likely to contain your topic, or search by typing a keyword in the box.  

You can also search in the library catalog, click the "Library Search" tab, enter your keyword, and use the filters to narrow the results to certain campus locations, or to electronic resources.

Find the Ejournals by searching for a word in the name of the journal (not by the title of an article). Consider related terms that might be useful.  To narrow your retrieval, choose more specific terms; to broaden your search, think of umbrella terms that are on topic but less specific. Remember, you are only searching the name of the journal, not for individual articles (see PubMed for that).

Tell me about...

In Alabama from the 1930s to 1970s, researchers recruited black men to participate in a study of syphilis – a terrible disease that can cause disability and death. The researchers told the men participating that they were getting medical treatment, even though they were not. In fact, when the study began syphilis was untreatable. The researchers instead wanted to study what syphilis does to the body over time. After World War II, when a treatment – penicillin – was available for syphilis, the researchers kept the men from receiving it because they wanted to study what happened as the disease got worse. What makes this study – the Tuskegee syphilis study – unethical? What is wrong with the way the researchers acted?

A human exercise experiment or class survey designed by a student for a science fair seems very different from the Tuskegee syphilis study. However, is there anything about student studies that might raise ethical concerns?  

Human subjects research is exactly what it sounds like. It is research that uses people as the subjects of experiments or studies. It can include giving people new drugs, doing tests on their blood, even having them take surveys. Researchers have a duty to treat the people they study ethically and respectfully. In particular, it is important to make sure that researchers do not exploit their subjects.

Unfortunately, as the Tuskegee syphilis study shows, some people were treated horribly during research studies in the past. German and Japanese researchers, for instance, conducted terrible experiments on prisoners during World War II. Many other incidents took place before the 1970s, when some U.S. doctors experimented on hospital patients without telling them or failed to provide medicines that would have treated potentially deadly diseases. Today, there are ethical principles for research to help ensure that people who participate are not harmed and that the scandals of the past do not occur again. These principles even apply to student research projects with humans, and they are important for you to think about as you design experiments.

If people are afraid that research is unethical, nobody will participate. Without participants, it will be impossible to develop new medicines and treatments. We all benefit from the advances made possible through medical research, from more effective chemotherapy, to vaccines that protect against deadly disease, to increased knowledge about nutrition and healthy lifestyles. None of this would have been possible without the selless contributions of millions of human research subjects.

Taken from the introduction to "Research Ethics: How to Treat People Who Participate in Research" frm the National Institutes of Health.  Read the introduction and the rest of the article at that link. 


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Kevin Block
RowanSOM Health Sciences Library
1 Medical Center Dr.
Stratford, NJ 08084
(856) 566-6804