5 ethical issues medical schools must address with future docs

Physicians grapple with ethical issues throughout their careers, and a new report published in Academic Medicine calls for medical schools to make these topics a part of their medical training. 

The medical education field doesn't have a single, standardized approach to ethics, but it's vital that students learn ethical standards and their practical application. This means ethics education must keep up with trends in the medical profession, according to researchers, led by Joseph Carrese, M.D., of the Johns Hopkins Berman Institute of Bioethics.

Researchers developed a list of 20 emerging ethical issues that medical stchools must address with their students, including: 

  • Clinician self-awareness that encompasses both professional identity and self-care
  • Use of social media, which has been at the center of numerous healthcare controversies, including a 2014 case in which a New York hospital fired an emergency nurse for posting an Instagram photo of a trauma room where clinicians treated a man hit by a subway train
  • Assessment of patients' decision-making capacity, particularly involving decisions by patient surrogates
  • Cultural competency, and racial and ethnic health disparities
  • Worries or concerns about colleague impairment or competence

To translate ethics lessons to practical application, educators "must strive to move learners from knowledge acquisition and skills development to behavior change in which excellent patient care is the goal," the report states. The authors recommend strategies such as online courses that use a "flipped classroom" model, allowing students to watch lectures online independently, freeing up class time for discussion and practical application, or role-play scenarios, which would enable students to assess and test their own decision-making abilities.

To learn more:
- read the report abstract