In the search for a globally binding ethical minimal consensus in dealing with research on human beings the awareness of the cultural specificity of such questions will be of central importance. France provides a good example of such cultural specificities. Three basic structures of French discussion on research ethics can be enumerated: first the particular weight placed on therapeutic benefit, second a particular accentuation on freedom and voluntarism, and third its lesser attention to the aspect of ability to give consent. The weak emphasis on the ability to give consent is rooted as much in the traditionally paternalistically imbued physician-patient relationship as in the French legal system, in which the doctrine of consent is not given the fundamental position of importance found in the Anglo-Saxon countries. As an important Roman country, a different accentuation in the ethical discussion on research on humans can be recognised, a discussion in which for a long time the right of self determination was less of a criterion for decision than the teleology of medical action. It is precisely this aspect of latent cultural influence in ethical convictions which is of decisive importance for future discussion on research on humans.