The practice of surgical trainees operating in developing countries is gaining interest in the medical community. Although there has been little analysis about the ethical impact of these electives, there has been some concerns raised over the possible exploitation of trainees and their patients. An ethical review of this practice shows that care needs to be taken to prevent harm. Inexperienced surgeons learning surgical skills in developing countries engender greater risk of violating basic ethical principles. Advanced surgical trainees who have already achieved surgical competence are best qualified to satisfy these ethical issues. All training programs need to develop a structured ethical review for international electives to protect their trainees and their patients from harm.