The Resolution 196/96, which the Ministry of Health instituted with the aim of regulating the ethical aspects of all research "involving human beings", has not yet been duly appreciated in all its implications for anthropological research. This article points out the difficulties that this Resolution presents to fieldwork, especially in relation to the study of illicit activities such as the use of psychoactive substances. Such studies frequently take the form of ethnographies and presuppose going to the field and establishing personal relations with the subjects through a direct participation in their daily activities and in their culture. This methodology and the illicitness of the activities under study require specific ethical considerations which are not met by the Resolution. Some of the problem areas are: (a) The need of approval for the project by a Committee of Ethics; (b) The difficulties in obtaining informed consent when working among hidden populations; (c) The abetting or apology of illegal acts; (d) The difficulty in doing social criticism without hurting the interests of any of the subjects under study; (e) The maintenance of anonymity in studies that might also be historical records. The specificities of the different disciplines strengthen the notion that Committees of Ethics ought to be sectional so as to avoid judging all questions according to standards which are only appropriate to some of them.
ethics; hidden populations; psychoactive substances; fieldwork; ABA