Bioethics Blogs

Ethics in the medical undergraduate curriculum: encouraging thinking in the midst of cramming facts

Over this autumn school term, members of our Education Advisory Group are sharing thoughts and ideas based on their own experience of how bioethics and debate can be useful in education contexts. This post is written by Anneke Lucassen, Professor of Clinical Genetics and Honorary Consultant Clinical Geneticist at the University of Southampton and Member of the Nuffield Council on Bioethics, and Angela Fenwick, Associate Professor in Medical Ethics and Education at the University of Southampton.

Studying medicine often starts off with establishing an enormous fact based armoury. Students must get to grips with science subjects such as anatomy, physiology, pharmacology and learn how different organs and parts of the body interact and how they can go wrong. Students then need to be able to apply their knowledge and understanding to clinical practice. Into this mix they also need to develop the critical thinking skills which will allow them to engage and deal with ethical and legal issues- both routine and rare ones. Despite many changes in medical undergraduate curricula over the last 20 years, creating enough space for consideration of difficult issues- which can’t be easily solved by drawing on facts – remains a challenge.

At Southampton University most of the teaching, learning and assessment of clinical ethics and law takes place in the last 3 years of the medical curriculum in an attempt to encourage students to critically engage and see the relevance of ethics and law at a time when they are focussed on clinical realities. The learning outcomes are formulated from a nationally agreed core content developed by practitioners and led by the Institute of Medical Ethics.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.