Given its outsized influence as a core document in bioethics, it is worth reminding ourselves of the historical context in which the Belmont Report came to be. This article examines the societal forces that helped bring about the Belmont Report and that shaped its conception of ethical research. A product of a public investigation that included many nonscientists and espoused philosophical principles, the Report internalized a growing call in the late 1960s for oversight over the research enterprise, which had long been the private realm of physician-investigators. Belmont helped bring about a regulatory and oversight apparatus to the research enterprise, as well as a language and discipline of bioethics that added a multidisciplinary set of voices and decision-makers to discussions of what constitutes ethical research. Because it reflected the spirit of protectionism engendered by events of the 1960s and 1970s, Belmont also helped emphasize the importance of informed consent and the protection of vulnerable populations. But because the Report was a product of its time, contingent on historical developments and highly publicized events, it is not necessarily responsive to new factors that now condition the research enterprise.


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pp. 220-239
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