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Ann R Coll Physicians Surg Can. 1998 Mar;31(2):93-8.

Pediatricians' experience of ethical dilemmas in practice: implications for education.

Author information

  • 1Bioethics Education and Research, Dalhousie University, 5849 University Ave., Halifax NS B3H 4H7, Canada. Nkenny@tupdean1.dal.med.ca



To determine Canadian pediatricians' experience with ethical dilemmas, to relate this information to proposed curriculum for residency training in Canada, and to determine pediatricians' self-assessment of adequacy of training in ethical issues and the means used in practice to resolve dilemmas.


A single-pass questionnaire was mailed to all 1,220 pediatrician members of the Canadian Pediatric Society.


From the 363 questionnaires (30 per cent) that were returned, 43 per cent of respondents had received formal ethics education in their training. Approximately half of respondents judged their training as adequate. Responses confirmed the themes of futile treatment, demands for and refusal of treatment by parents, uncertainty regarding withdrawing or withholding treatments, conflicts over judgments about the right thing to do, and dilemmas regarding the role of the child and adolescent. Respondents relied mainly on informal discussion with colleagues to resolve their dilemmas in practice.


Core residency and continuing physician education need a valid epidemiological description of ethical issues encountered in practice. Educational approaches to the development of ethical knowledge, skills, and attitudes must be validated as there is a tendency to rely on case precedent and peer judgment. Perceived competence in handling ethical issues and dilemmas must be tested against accepted standards. Emerging ethical issues such as resource allocation, peer review, managed care, and technological and scientific advances must be regularly incorporated into both residency education and continuing medical education.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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