The ethics theme integrates academic and clinical experiences to prepare medical students to act wisely and responsibly when faced with patient bedside ethical dilemmas. The theme topics that are covered across the curriculum are based on the moral traditions and insights of medicine, philosophy, humanism and ethics. The conceptual framework of ethics is the idea of a “moral agency”, which consists of elemental capacities such as moral sensibility, responsiveness, reasoning, accountability, character, valuing and leadership. The ultimate objective of this theme is to foster the cultivation of these capacities with the end result being humanistic patient care.
Ethics falls under the purview of “human values” — values that entrust honesty, integrity, dignity, kindness, and charity to the vocation of medicine and to the moral character of physicians. This theme engages students in the study of moral values and judgments as they apply to medicine, and emphasizes concerns for human interests, values and dignity in the care of the sick. The students will progressively become "moral agents”, responsible for making judgment and decision making, taking actions that comport with morality when caring for their patients.
The curriculum is designed to aid students in fortifying the foundation of their own personal morality as a physician. It will enhance the student’s understanding of:
- Their role as a moral agent.
- The moral nature of medicine.
- The explanation and justification of moral choices and decisions.
Lectures, case-based group discussions and skill demonstrations are used to introduce students to the principle problems and dilemmas that physicians encounter in the care of patients. These areas include communication difficulties, truth-telling, privacy and confidentiality, informed consent and refusal, and end of life care and management. Students will be challenged to apply the knowledge and skills acquired to the resolution of “real life” ethical problems encountered in the context of their clerkships. By incorporating ethics into the curriculum, students can integrate the technical aspects of health care with a deeper meaning in caring for others.
David Beyda, MD