Teaching Medical Ethics

To get a degree for their well-known and respected profession, Doctors are required to go through many years of higher education. With so many aspects of the field to remember, it is thought that there is very little education focused on teaching the students about handling moral and personal beliefs. Because of this, anthropologist Jonathon Tomlinson reflects in his post on how college and university programs intended for medical students have begun changing in how these students are learning social communication etiquette compared to their past.

What used to be dominated by English, upper-class, white males, the medical field has changed drastically over the past half-century with growing interest and easier accessibility to education. Diversity among gender, ethnicities, and social/economic background has become much more apparent. According to Tomlinson, “By 2003 the proportion of female medical students in the UK peaked at 61%”. With these drastic changes in the medical field’s population, students are being forced to come together to work with others who may have different beliefs and values as them. This in itself is a learning experience for the students in how to act in response to those who think differently than them, and also pushes the professors to reflect on their teaching methods to consider how they should handle the course material to incorporate and share the differing views of their students.

While there are still few proper courses that focus on teaching medical ethics to medical students, the life lessons many are being taught through daily interactions on their campuses are likely helping with some aspect of understanding and learning outside opinions, but not nearly to the extent to build the relationships needed to further this aspect of medicine. As Arthur Frank, anthropologist and sociologist, writes, “Th[e] structured disruption of continuity of relational care is more than an organisation problem; it is a moral failure of health care, deforming who patients and clinicians can be to and for each other,” (Frank 2004).

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