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Med Educ. 2001 Mar;35(3):286-94.

Refuting patients' obligations to clinical training: a critical analysis of the arguments for an obligation of patients to participate in the clinical education of medical students.

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Pécs University Medical School, Pécs Science University, Pécs, Hungary.



The clinical teaching of medical students is essential to the continuation of medicine, but it has a major impact on the patient's health care and autonomy. Some people believe that there is a moral obligation for patients to participate in this training. Such an obligation, real or perceived, may endanger patients' autonomy.


The author makes a critical analysis of the main arguments he encounters supporting such an obligation. These arguments are: (1) the furthering of medical education; (2) compensation when uninsured or unable to pay; (3) an equitable return for the care received in a teaching hospital, and (4) fulfilment of a student's need for (and some say right to) clinical training.


Related literature is reviewed in search of evidence and/or support for such arguments.


The review reveals that these arguments either cannot be verified or do not necessarily place any obligations on the patient. It is argued that, while a medical student may have a right to clinical education, the obligation to fulfil this right rests with the medical university and not on the patients of its teaching hospitals.


Several proposals are made about how to satisfy this need without infringing on the patient's right to refuse participation, explaining the patient's rights and role in clinical teaching, and the use of standardized patients where necessary.

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