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Med Educ. 2010 Jul;44(7):723-30. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2923.2010.03671.x.

Ethical issues confronted by medical students during clinical rotations.

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1
Medical Ethics and History of Medicine Research Centre, Tehran University of Medical Sciences, and Department of Internal Medicine, Imam Khomeini Hospital Complex, Tehran, Iran.

Abstract

OBJECTIVES:

This study aimed to examine the most common and important ethical issues confronting medical students during clinical rotations so that ethics-related topics can be prioritised according to students' needs and this information used to develop a curriculum for the ethics course.

METHODS:

In a cross-sectional approach, we reviewed the medical ethics-related cases recorded in the logbooks of all medical students (n=241) at Tehran University of Medical Sciences who attended the medical ethics course during October 2006 to July 2007. As part of a graded assignment, each student was required to record three encounters with ethics-related issues in his or her logbook. A total of 713 cases were assessed. Information related to the ethical issues and the conditions in which ethical issues arose was extracted and recorded by two experts, whose analysis showed agreement of kappa 0.77. In cases of discrepancy, both experts reviewed and discussed the record until they achieved agreement.

RESULTS:

A total of 713 cases were analysed. The most common issues reported by students related to ethics in medical education (20.1%, n=143), professionalism (18.8%, n=134), confidentiality (7.6%, n=54), the doctor-patient relationship (7.3%, n=52), informed consent (7.0%, n=50) and the doctor-peer relationship (7.0%, n=50). After adjusting for length of rotation, the highest numbers of ethics-related incidents were reported from urology, general surgery, orthopaedics, internal medicine, neurology, and obstetrics and gynaecology wards.

CONCLUSIONS:

The results of this study indicate that professionalism and related elements represent one of the most important areas of concern that need to be addressed when planning courses for medical students. The other significant area of concern is that of ethics in medical education, which, although the subject is not considered essential for medical practitioners, should be taught and respected so that student sensitivity to medical ethics is maintained and even increased.

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