MSF doctor speaks with the mother of a patient
Safari Balegamire Richard, an MSF doctor at Bambo general hospital in Democratic Republic of Congo, speaks with the mother of a patient.
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Medical ethics

Every day, our teams deliver emergency medical aid to those who need it most. As we carry out this work, we are guided by the rules of medical ethics—particularly the duty to provide care without causing harm to individuals or groups.

We’re also committed to safeguarding our patients’ rights to autonomy, confidentiality, and informed consent. We respect the dignity of our patients, which includes respect for their cultural and religious beliefs.

In accordance with these principles, we endeavor to provide the best medical care possible to all patients. 

The MSF ethics review board

Historically, research was not seen as core to the mission of Médecins Sans Frontières. However, MSF now initiates, sponsors, or participates in numerous research projects in multiple field sites. Results from several research projects have had substantial impact on global health policy and provided benefits to populations served by MSF and elsewhere. As a result, research has become increasingly integral to MSF activities, both in the field and in global health advocacy.

MSF has paid particular attention to the ethical issues arising from the research in which they engage, manifested by the creation of an independent ethics review board (MSF-ERB) in 2002 that evaluates all research proposals involving MSF.

Why is there a need for ethical review of research?

Ethical reviews are conducted to protect the dignity, rights, well-being, and welfare of research participants and communities. The MSF-ERB thus examines research protocols thoroughly to make sure that the research is scientifically sound, pertinent, relevant, and beneficial for the community and/or the intended participants; that the methods by which the research will be conducted are rigorous; and that the participants’ rights are respected and protected.

Read more about MSF-ERB activities and board members on