How Medical Students Think about Ethical Issues

Johanna Shapiro, Ph.D.

Background. Although bioethics has become an established part of medical school curricula, relatively little is known about how students apply didactic material to clinical problem-solving situations.

Method. Each of 92 second-year students (54 men and 38 women) at the University of California, Irvine, College of Medicine in 1991-92 wrote a paper identifying and attempting to resolve a clinical ethical dilemma of his or her choice. The papers were then coded for content, use of ethical theories and principles, degree of resolution, and level of personal orientation (i.e., evidence of personal involvement in the dilemmas). Data were analyzed by student sex and age, using chi-square tests of significance and correlational analysis.

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