Medical ethics education: coming of age

Acad Med. 1989 Dec;64(12):705-14. doi: 10.1097/00001888-198912000-00004.


Medical ethics education is instruction that endeavors to teach the examination of the role of values in the doctor's relationship with patients, colleagues, and society. It is one front of a broad curricular effort to develop physicians' values, social perspectives, and interpersonal skills for the practice of medicine. The authors define medical ethics education as more clinically centered than human values education and more inclusive of philosophical, social, and legal issues than is interpersonal skills training. The authors review the history of the emergence of medical ethics education over the last 20 years, examine the areas of consensus that have emerged concerning the general objectives and premises for designing medical ethics programs, and describe teaching objectives and methods, course content, and program evaluation used in such programs on both preclinical and clinical levels. The four interrelated requirements for successful institutionalization of medical ethics education programs are defined and discussed, and the paper ends with an overview of the uncertain future of medical ethics education, an accepted but still not fully mature part of physician training in the United States. An extensive reference list accompanies the article.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Bioethical Issues
  • Cultural Diversity
  • Curriculum
  • Education, Medical*
  • Education, Medical, Undergraduate
  • Ethical Analysis
  • Ethicists
  • Ethics, Medical*
  • Humans
  • Interdisciplinary Communication*
  • Physician-Patient Relations
  • Program Evaluation
  • Social Values
  • Teaching / methods
  • Theology
  • United States