No one may be subject to medical or scientific experimentation without their free consent. Product testing or trials on humans can seriously endanger and risk the health of human test subjects. This is particularly so for tests involving administration or ingestion of a product into the body of the human test subject (such as medical experiments and pharmaceutical clinical trials), tests involving exposure to chemicals, allergens or toxic substances (such as cosmetic testing) and hazardous environments or machinery. Product testing on humans is a high-risk activity that can cause sudden death, disease, permanent disabilities and ailments and reproductive health risks. Women may be subject to greater reproductive health risks from exposure to test products containing chemical or toxic substances.
Businesses engaged in product testing operations involving humans are expected to obtain the full consent of all participants and ensure a high level of protection of human health. Fair and equitable treatment of human subjects is key to ensuring that product testing does not have adverse human rights impacts on individuals, including their right to health and right to life. Illegal, unethical or discriminatory practices, such as the provision of misleading information regarding the product, the testing procedure and the effect(s), terms and conditions, and the testing of products, including banned substances, can have a serious negative impact on the safety and well-being of humans. Some businesses may offer payment for participation in clinical trials and product testing and so special consideration should be made to vulnerable sectors of society – such as impoverished, disabled people or indigenous communities who may be motivated by remuneration but not fully understand the risks and potential long-term health implications.
Businesses are expected to ensure compliance with national legislation (including pharmaceutical and medical regulations) and international standards where domestic laws are weak or poorly enforced. Product testing which endangers human health may amount to a violation of the human right to be free from torture, the right to an adequate standard of living and favourable conditions of work, the right to life and the right to the highest possible standard of physical and mental health.