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Adv Physiol Educ. 2012 Sep;36(3):188-91. doi: 10.1152/advan.00010.2012.

Assessing formal teaching of ethics in physiology: an empirical survey, patterns, and recommendations.

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Institute of Physiology, Center of Physiological Medicine, Medical University of Graz, Graz, Austria.


Ethics should be an important component of physiological education. In this report, we examined to what extent teaching of ethics is formally being incorporated into the physiology curriculum. We carried out an e-mail survey in which we asked the e-mail recipients whether their institution offered a course or lecture on ethics as part of the physiology teaching process at their institution, using the following query: "We are now doing an online survey in which we would like to know whether you offer a course or a lecture on ethics as part of your physiology teaching curriculum." The response rate was 53.3%: we received 104 responses of a total of 195 sent out. Our responses came from 45 countries. While all of our responders confirmed that there was a need for ethics during medical education and scientific training, the degree of inclusion of formal ethics in the physiology curriculum varied widely. Our survey showed that, in most cases (69%), including at our Medical University of Graz, ethics in physiology is not incorporated into the physiology curriculum. Given this result, we suggest specific topics related to ethics and ethical considerations that could be integrated into the physiology curriculum. We present here a template example of a lecture "Teaching Ethics in Physiology" (structure, content, examples, and references), which was based on guidelines and case reports provided by experts in this area (e.g., Benos DJ. Ethics revisited. Adv Physiol Educ 25: 189-190, 2001). This lecture, which we are presently using in Graz, could be used as a base that could lead to greater awareness of important ethical issues in students at an early point in the educational process.

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