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How to make the research ethics committee your new best friend
  1. Anthony Kaiser1,
  2. Robert Carr2
  1. 1Department of Neonatology, Guys & St Thomas' NHS Foundation Trust, London
  2. 2Department of Haematology, Guy's and St Thomas' NHS Foundation Trust, London
  1. Correspondence to Dr Anthony Kaiser, Department of Neonatology, Guys & St Thomas Foundation Trust, London SE1 7EH, UK; anthony.kaiser{at}

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Why should I read this?

Research is an important part of training and the practice of medicine; all research needs to have the approval of a research ethics committee (REC).

Ethics: ‘moral principles that govern the conducting of an activity’ (Oxford English Dictionary)

Gaining ethics approval for a research project is often viewed as a daunting hurdle to be negotiated, but with the right approach the ethics committee can be a resource of expert help that can enhance the quality of your study.

The underlying ethical principles for medical research, encapsulated in the Declaration of Helsinki (1964, revised 2008)1 are often summarised by four words: Justice, the right of the patient to be treated fairly and to be fully informed; Beneficence, the obligation of the doctor to act in the patient's best interests; Non-maleficence, the obligation of the doctor to do no harm; Autonomy, the right of the patient to decide and consent freely, without coercion.

In the UK research ethics is overseen by the Health Research Authority which coordinates research ethics applications and approvals nationally. Applications to a …

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  • Contributors Both co-authors wrote sections of the paper, and then amended each other's section until mutual agreement was reached.

  • Competing interests None.

  • Provenance and peer review Commissioned; externally peer reviewed.