Students' Attitudes and Potential Behaviour to a Competent Patient's Request for Withdrawal of Treatment as They Pass Through a Modern Medical Curriculum
Journal of Medical Ethics 2004 August; 30(4): 371-376
OBJECTIVE: To examine students' attitudes and potential behaviour to a competent patient's request for withdrawal of treatment as they pass through a modern medical curriculum. DESIGN: Cohort design. SETTING: University of Glasgow Medical School, United Kingdom. SUBJECTS: A cohort of students entering Glasgow University's new learner centred, integrated medical curriculum in October 1996. METHODS: Students' responses before and after year 1, after year 3, and after year 5 to the assisted suicide vignette of the Ethics in Health Care Survey instrument, were examined quantitatively and qualitatively. Analysis of students' multichoice answers enabled measurement of the movement towards professional consensus opinion. Analysis of written justifications helped determine whether their reasoning was consistent with professional consensus and enabled measurement of change in knowledge content and recognition of the values inherent in the vignette. Themes on students' reasoning behind their decision to withdraw treatment or not were also identified. RESULTS: Students' answers were found to be consistent with professional consensus opinion precurriculum and remained so throughout the curriculum. There was an improvement in the knowledge content of the written responses following the first year of the curriculum, which was sustained postcurriculum. However, students were found to analyse the section mainly in terms of autonomy, with few responses considering the other main ethical principles or the wider ethical perspective. Students were unclear on their legal responsibilities. CONCLUSIONS: Students should be encouraged to consider all relevant ethical principles and the wider ethical perspective when deliberating ethical dilemmas. Students should have a clear understanding of their legal responsibilities.
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