Background: Medical students(MS) will face ethical issues throughout their lives as doctors. The present study aims to investigate medical students' opinions on controversial ethical issues and factors associated with these opinions.
Methods: SBRAME (Spirituality and Brazilian Medical Education) is a multicenter study involving 12 Brazilian medical schools with 5950 MS. Participants completed a questionnaire that collected information on socio-demographic data, medical schools characteristics, religious beliefs and opinions on controversial ethical issues. Of all MS, 3630 participated in the survey (61.0%).
Results: The sample was 53.8% women and the mean age was 22.5 years. In general, most MS have no objections to prescription of birth control (90.8%), adult stem cell use (87.5%), embryonic stem cell use (82.0%) and abortion for genetic reasons (51.2%). Approximately half of students have no objections to human cloning (47.3%), 45.7% to withdrawal of artificial life support, 41.4% to euthanasia and 23.3% to abortion for failed contraception. Socio-demographic data such as age, gender and income had little influence on MS opinions. On the other hand, medical schools characteristics (number of medical students in the university, year of medical school foundation, location of the university and type of university) and religious aspects (religious affiliation, religious attendance, non-organizational religiousness and intrinsic religiousness) were highly correlated with their opinions. In general, MS with more supportive opinions on controversial ethical issues were less religious and from non-traditional (newer), urban, public and bigger universities.
Conclusion: The current study reveals MS have different opinions regarding controversial ethical issues. Noteworthy, these opinions seem to be shaped more by university characteristics and religious beliefs than socio-demographic data.