There are five general principles in the 2002 APA ethics code designed to "guide and inspire psychologists toward the very highest ethical ideals of the profession." These principles include beneficence and nonmaleficence (i.e., benefit people and do no harm); fidelity and responsibility; and integrity, justice, and respect for people's rights and dignity. The Belmont Report identified three basic ethical principles when conducting research: respect for persons, justice, and beneficence. The following are five basic ethical principles presented in the order of the general principles in the APA code that apply specifically to conducting biomedical and behavioral research with human participants.
Principle 1: Beneficence and NonmaleficenceRepresenting the utilitarian tradition, this principle requires that researchers, using considerations such as those described above, strive to maximize potential benefits while minimizing risks of their research. Although the cost-benefit mandate seems straightforward, it is rarely unambiguous in practice because costs to participants and benefits to the profession and to society are difficult to accurately estimate in advance and no universally agreed-upon method or criteria exist for optimally balancing the two.
Where questions arise related to the degree of risk, researchers are responsible for seeking ethical advice and implementing safeguards to protect participants. Risks that are identified in advance must be communicated to prospective research participants or their legal equivalent, and informed consent must be obtained (except in special cases approved by the IRB, such as research involving a placebo control, in which fully informed consent compromises a scientifically required research design). Sometimes research presents risks to groups of people or social institutions. No consensus exists for whether a representative can provide consent on behalf of a collective entity, but full compliance to Principle 1 requires sensitivity to this issue.
Principle 2: Fidelity, Responsibility, and TrustThis principle requires researchers to establish and maintain a relationship...