Date on Master's Thesis/Doctoral Dissertation


Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation

Degree Name

Ph. D.


Social Work

Committee Chair

Lawson, Thomas Richard

Author's Keywords

Social sciences; Research ethics; United States; Germany; Hungary


Research--Moral and ethical aspects; Sociology--Research--Moral and ethical aspects


This dissertation is a comparative theoretical analysis of human rights, research ethics and human subjects protection. The history of human rights is a long one, but for the sake of immediacy and focus, the author will limit the discussion to events pertaining to the last century and the beginning of a new one. Through a process of sociocultural review of significant human rights and scientific events pertinent to research involving human subjects, this work will examine the evolution of research ethics in the United States, Germany and Hungary. These nations are not intended to be representative of international research ethics as a whole, but their 20th century histories starkly depict how the forces of democracy, national socialism and communism have shaped our view of how science has been used to transform societies and our beliefs regarding the human condition. The author intends to place these societies and the research topic in a theoretical context that will add depth and resonance to the discussion by examining how the aforementioned political schemes, and the ethical codes which have arisen within them, came to produce the greatness and tragedy documented in these pages. The theories to be used in this analysis are structural functionalism, general systems theory, conflict theory, Peter Blau's exchange theory of power, and symbolic interactionism. The art and science of social work stand amidst the issue of how societies come to address the ethics of human subjects protection in research. With its historic dedication to the protection of human rights and the enfranchisement of all peoples within and across societies, social work is positioned to negotiate and implement the principles codified into the traditions and laws governing international human subjects protection for research participants. The dissertation will begin with sociohistorical review of the nations under study to provide necessary context and information about the research topic. A theoretical analysis will follow. The dissertation will include a recommendation for a code of research ethics which has broad applicability across cultures, and conclude with a discussion of the role of the social work profession in its operationalization.