While formal teaching programs in medical ethics were practically nonexistent in 1970, by the early 1990s there was extraordinary diversity both in the United States and elsewhere in formal teaching activities from the undergraduate to the postgraduate level. Bioethics education in the early twenty-first century is an accepted part of education for students in almost all medical schools and for residents in many programs.

Nevertheless, despite this growth and an evolving consensus that began in the 1980s regarding some core goals and teaching methods, many questions remain only partially answered. What should the primary goals of such teaching be—analytic ability, behavioral skills, or actual practice? What is the relationship between professionalism and medical ethics? How should those goals vary according to the developmental stage of the health professional and according to the person's specific field of practice within medicine? How can (or should) the attention on ethical attention be expanded beyond conflicts at the beginning and end of life to the day-to-day activities of doctoring? Who are the most appropriate faculty members to lead teaching efforts in various settings? What teaching methods are most effective and efficient in accomplishing curricular goals in each of the various settings? Finally, what is the proper role of formal evaluation efforts, both of individual students and of overall teaching programs? What methods of evaluation are both valid and feasible?

The difficulty in finding answers to these questions ensures that designing and implementing effective medical ethics education will remain challenging well into the twenty-first century.


SEE ALSO: Casuistry; Conscience, Rights of; Literature and Bioethics; Medical Ethics, History of; Medicine, Anthropology of; Narrative; Nursing, Profession of; Professionalism and Professional Ethics; and other Bioethics Education subentries

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