Very well, then: let’s allow that the quality of argument in bioethics – and clinical ethics in particular – is not of high quality. What should be done about it?
That’s a hard question, though it’s predictable and wholly justifiable that it should be asked. And, to be honest, I don’t know offhand. I might have a few germs of ideas, but nothing that I’d be prepared to mention in public. That doesn’t mean that I can’t look at other ideas, and test them out. One such idea is mooted in this paper by Merrick et al: in essence, they propose a sort of debating competition. They begin by explaining – with some plausibility – some of the factors that make it a bit hard to get full-blooded engagement with ethics in the medical curriculum:
As educators, we have observed additional challenges medical students face in their ethics education, which echo others’ experiences. First, because of the prodigious amount of information medical students are presented with during their first two years of training, they typically adopt a strategy of selectively reading assignments, attending large lectures, and participating in small group discussions. In this context, ethics appears to be deprioritized, because, from the students’ perspective, it is both more demanding and less rewarding than other subjects. Unlike other subjects, ethics requires students to reflect on their personal moral sensibilities in addition to understanding theory and becoming familiar with key topics and cases. Yet, also unlike other courses, poor marks in ethics rarely cause academic failure, given the way performance in medical school curricula is typically evaluated.
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.