To an increasing extent ethical controversies affect and sometimes obstruct public health work and epidemiological research. In order to improve communication between the concerned parties a model for identification and analysis of ethical conflicts in individual-based research has been worked out in co-operation between epidemiologists and moral philosophers. The model has two dimensions. One dimension specifies relevant ethical principles (as beneficence, non-maleficence, autonomy and justice). The other dimension specifies the groups of persons involved in the conflict under consideration (for example: the study-population, individuals who may benefit from the results, the researchers and their personnel, the community at large). The model has been applied to the problem of legitimacy of case-register research and to problems in psychiatric health services research as well as epidemiological research.