Fellowship programs offered by universities are the most common way for candidates to obtain medical ethics training. Graduate dual-degree programs in bioethics are available to students also interested in philosophy or law. Graduates of these programs often pursue careers as philosophy professors or lawyers specializing in medial ethics or health law.
Most medical ethics programs integrate lectures, seminars, case studies, co-teaching and research projects. Students learn about current issues in medicine and may participate in mock ethical consultations or clinical rounds.
Medical Ethics Training Programs and Requirements Overview
Medical students often attend medical ethics classes during their four years of medical school. They learn about health care in the U.S. and study basic ethics terms and philosophies, such as the Hippocratic Oath. Aspiring doctors also study the ethical implications of topics such as informed refusal or consent, organ acquisition and allocation and patient confidentiality.
Fellowship programs are typically open to physicians and related workers on a selective admissions basis; stipends may or may not be provided. These medical ethics training programs are 1-2 years in length and, depending on the school, may lead to a master's degree. Participants often have the opportunity to attend seminars, co-teach university courses and develop a research project. Fellows take classes in medical law, health care policies and research ethics. Medical ethics training is most often pursued by physicians and clinicians who are looking to gain a better understanding of medical ethics or for those who may be looking to conduct research projects. Experienced doctors with formal medical ethics training are often involved in hospital decision making and policy development. Lawyers may also study medical ethics in order to work in particular aspects of health care law, such as medical malpractice. Nurses, social workers and philosophers also pursue medical ethics training.
Both religious and secular colleges host medical ethics seminars, workshops and conferences, which can last from one day to one week. Topics of discussion can range from genetics to euthanasia. Legal organizations may also sponsor 1-2 hour virtual seminars or 1-day land-based seminars on medical ethics.
Additional Professional Development
Medical ethics professionals can browse the Internet for relevant resources, including blogs, e-newsletters and discussion forums. The American Medical Association website (www.ama-assn.org) devotes several pages to medical ethics physician codes and articles. Additionally, there are a number of books and periodicals focused on topics concerning medical ethics.
Most medical ethics training is for those who have received training in the biomedical sciences, but can also be of interest to philosophy professors or lawyers specializing in the field.