A cross-sectional study of applied bioethical reasoning in pharmacy students and preceptors

Pharm Pract (Granada). 2014 Apr;12(2):401. Epub 2014 Mar 15.


Objective: To compare ethical principles most often utilized by pharmacy students and preceptors to determine plan of action for an ethical dilemma and to determine if ethical principles utilized are the same for individuals in the postconventional range.

Method: A two part survey was administered to a convenience sample of pharmacy students and preceptors. The first part was comprised of an original measure, the Pharmacy Ethical Dilemmas Survey (PEDS), that was developed to assess participants' action choices on healthcare-related ethical dilemmas and which moral rule or ethical principle was most influential in their decision. The second part was comprised of the Defining Issues Test.

Results: Patient autonomy and non-maleficience were the primary bioethical principles applied by students but pharmacists applied non-maleficience, patient autonomy, and also pharmacist autonomy. For all scenarios, students were more likely to rely on the principle of beneficence, while preceptors were more likely to rely on the pharmacist's right to autonomy. In the analysis of application of bioethical principles by higher and lower principled reasoning individuals, only in the assisted suicide scenario did the two groups agree on the primary principle applied with both groups relying predominantly on patient autonomy.

Conclusion: Students and preceptors utilize different bioethical principles to support how they would handle each ethical dilemma but P-scores do not play a role in determining which bioethical principles were used to justify their action choices.

Keywords: Attitude of Health Personnel; Ethics; Pharmacy; Principle-Based Ethics; Professional Practice; United States.