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J Surg Educ. 2009 Jan-Feb;66(1):35-42. doi: 10.1016/j.jsurg.2008.10.001.

Ethics education in surgical residency programs: a review of the literature.

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  • 1Department of Medicine, Indiana University School of Medicine, Indianapolis, IN 46202, USA.


Although ethics education in undergraduate medical school curricula has become essentially universal, and because ethics and professionalism have become integral parts of competency-based curricula for residents in nearly all specialties of medicine and surgery, it is not clear to what extent postgraduate surgical training routinely includes ethics education or skills training. Most general surgery residencies do not routinely integrate in-depth ethics skills training and assessment into their didactic curricula. In this article, we review the literature concerning ethics education in postgraduate surgical training programs. The few studies in the literature suggest that ethics education, when integrated in surgical residency curricula, can lead to measurable improvements in resident-centered outcomes, which include knowledge and confidence in handling ethical dilemmas. These curricula may lead to improvements in patient care. These findings suggest that ethics education for surgical residents is valuable but that questions regarding the optimal "dose" of ethics education and training as well as the optimal teaching methods would benefit from extended systematic evaluation and inquiry.

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