The 2013 Academic Emergency Medicine consensus conference focused on global health and emergency care research. One conference breakout session discussed research ethics and developed a research agenda concerning global acute care research ethics. This article represents the proceedings from that session, particularly focusing on ethical issues related to protecting human subjects while conducting acute care research. Protecting human research subjects from unnecessary risk is an important component of conducting ethical research, regardless of the research site. There are widely accepted ethical principles related to human subjects research; however, the interpretation of these principles requires specific local knowledge and expertise to ensure that research is conducted ethically within the societal and cultural norms. There is an obligation to conduct research ethically while recognizing the roles and responsibilities of all participants. This article discusses the complexities of determining and applying socially and culturally appropriate ethical principles during the conduct of global acute care research. Using case studies, it focuses both on the procedural components of ethical research conducted outside of "Western" culture and on basic ethical principles that are applicable to all human subjects research. This article also proposes specific research topics to stimulate future thought and the study of ethics in these complex circumstances.