In the field of medical ethics and bioethics, one of the most signal achievements of CIOMS was the adoption in 1982 by the United Nations General Assembly of “Principles of Medical Ethics Relevant to the Role of Health Personnel, Particularly Physicians, in the Protection of Prisoners Against Torture or Other Cruel Treatment”. These Principles were elaborated by CIOMS after extensive consultation and in 1979, following endorsement by WHO, were transmitted to the United Nations.
CIOMS has also issued International Guiding Principles for Biomedical Research Involving Animals. The original version, published in 1989, were revised in 2012 – following a process in which the International Council for Laboratory Animal Science (ICLAS) played a leading role. In the field of biomedical research involving human subjects, the World Medical Association (WMA) and CIOMS have been among the key international actors. In fact, the successive versions of the CIOMS Guidelines on the subject (1982, 1993, 2002, 2009 and 2016) have been conceived as forming a template for the practical implementation, particularly in developing countries, of the WMA’s Declaration of Helsinki. The latter was first adopted in 1964 and has been amended seven times since, most recently at the General Assembly in October 2013. The current (2013) version is the only official one.
In 2011, a Working Group to revise the CIOMS ethical guidelines for health-related research involving humans was set up. The composition of the Working Group ensured that different cultural perspectives were present, members varied in experience and expertise, and gender balance was achieved. One of the members represented the perspective of research participants. The Working Group was advised by representatives of UNESCO, WHO, Council on Health Research for Development (COHRED) and WMA. The Working Group decided to broaden the scope of the 2002 guidelines from “biomedical research” to “health-related research”. The Group considered biomedical research too narrow since that term would not cover research with health-related data, for example. In the same vein, the Working Group decided to merge the CIOMS Guidelines for Biomedical Research with the CIOMS Guidelines for Epidemiological Research of 2009, which already addressed topics such as biobanking and research with health-related data. Nearly all guidelines underwent major revisions. The revised document ”International Ethical Guidelines for Health-related Research Involving Humans” was adopted by CIOMS Executive Committee in November 2016 and replaced the respective 2002 and 2009 CIOMS documents. It is important to mention that these guidelines were prepared in collaboration with WHO and they are being translated into several other languages such as Spanish (by Pan American Health Organization – PAHO), Portuguese, French, Japanese and Chinese.