In 1947 the Nuremberg Military Tribunal delivered its verdict in the case of United States v Karl Brandt et al, in which 23 scientists and physicians stood trial for crimes committed before and during the Second World War. Included within the decision of the Tribunal was a statement defining the parameters for legitimate medical research. This short statement included ten specific points and subsequently became known as the Nuremberg Code.

Although it has no inherent legal force, the Code underlies much national and international guidance on the ethical conduct of research. Given the context in which the Code was formulated it is unsurprising that its first requirement is that there be voluntary consent to research. Other points cover the need to avoid unnecessary injury, particularly death or disabling injury. The Code is also available in French and Spanish