Theoretical Medicine and Bioethics

, Volume 26, Issue 6, pp 529–557 | Cite as

Human Rights,Cultural Pluralism, and International Health Research


In the field of bioethics, scholars have begun to consider carefully the impact of structural issues on global population health, including socioeconomic and political factors influencing the disproportionate burden of disease throughout the world. Human rights and social justice are key considerations for both population health and biomedical research. In this paper, I will briefly explore approaches to human rights in bioethics and review guidelines for ethical conduct in international health research, focusing specifically on health research conducted in resource-poor settings. I will demonstrate the potential for addressing human rights considerations in international health research with special attention to the importance of collaborative partnerships, capacity building, and respect for cultural traditions. Strengthening professional knowledge about international research ethics increases awareness of ethical concerns associated with study design and informed consent among researchers working in resource-poor settings. But this is not enough. Technological and financial resources are also necessary to build capacity for local communities to ensure that research results are integrated into existing health systems. Problematic issues surrounding the application of ethical guidelines in resource-poor settings are embedded in social history, cultural context, and the global political economy. Resolving the moral complexities requires a commitment to engaged dialogue and action among investigators, funding agencies, policy makers, governmental institutions, and private industry.


cultural pluralism human rights international health research research ethics 


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Copyright information

© Springer 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Bioethics, School of MedicineCase Western Reserve UniversityClevelandUSA

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