Revised WMA Declaration of Helsinki 2013: Side-by-Side Comparison

Estimated reading time of this article: 2 minutes

The Declaration of Helsinki (DoH): Ethical Principles for Medical Research Involving Human Subjects was revised by the World Medical Association (WMA) at the 64th WMA General Assembly, Fortaleza, Brazil, October 2013.1

This new version of Declaration of Helsinki (2013) replaces the version of 2008 of 59th WMA General Assembly, Seoul, Republic of Korea, October 2008.

What has changed?

Finding the differences in new revisions of guidelines is not obvious. Unfortunately, the creators usually do not provide diffs between versions. This is a pity and complicates the understanding of everyone since no one really knows what has changed.

Side-by-Side Comparison

[Update 22.10.2013: I’ve improved my comparison, see improved comparison based on synchronized texts.]

I have created a side-by-side comparison (HTML, 205 KiB), in order to have something to start with.

By clicking the above link, you will see the saved comparison as static HTML page. Differences are shown word-by-word.


I created this comparison after seeing a tweet of Ben Goldacre.

anyone written an interesting commentary on new Declaration of Helsinki yet? Important changes?

Making of

I downloaded both versions2 and converted them by hand to Markdown. Afterwards, I called the following script using Pandoc for normalization and html2diff for formatting.


# Normalizes
pandoc -f markdown_phpextra -t markdown_phpextra --atx-headers -o
pandoc -f markdown_phpextra -t markdown_phpextra --atx-headers -o

# Diff
diff -U9999999 --minimal > doh_2008_2013.diff

# Generate pretty HTML -o doh_2008_2013.diff.html -i doh_2008_2013.diff -a 1

I have already created a similar comparison for a Swiss conflict of interest guideline (German) and could reuse this tool chain.


  1. I hope this side-by-side comparison is useful.
  2. I hope the creators of guideline revisions provide diffs and better archives in the future.

  1. World Medical Association (2013). WMA Declaration of Helsinki: Ethical Principles for Medical Research Involving Human Subjects JAMA DOI: 10.1001/jama.2013.281053 ↩︎

  2. Finding the Declaration of Helsinki 2008 in the Internet was not easy. Revision control and archives could really be better. ↩︎


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