A Case Study of the Infusion of Bioethics into a Medical School Curriculum



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A review of literature found no case studies regarding the inclusion of bioethics in the medical school curriculum were found in the scholarly literature, including dissertations. Additionally, no study has been published reporting the inclusion of bioethics in the Texas A&M Health Science Center College of Medicine (TAMHSC-COM) curriculum. The purpose of this dissertation was to document how the study of bioethics was incorporated into the medical education curriculum at the TAMHSC-COM. The following question guided this dissertation research: How has the study of bioethics been implemented and taught in the medical curriculum at the TAMHSC-COM?

This qualitative single case study investigated how bioethics was incorporated into the TAMHSC-COM curriculum. Validity was obtained through the use of triangulation, and prolonged observation of documentation. In order to determine how the study of bioethics was included in the curriculum, an examination and analysis was carried out of available course catalogs and bulletins, syllabi, and assigned course readings.

The results showed that although the term ethics appeared in the General Statements sections of the TAMHSC-COM catalogs and bulletins, no reference to bioethics was found. Nor was bioethics found in the descriptions of courses or electives offered in the department. Examination of available syllabi found bioethics listed in only three class lecture topics.

Examination of texts, references and cross-references regarding ethical and bio-ethical citations, and printed material, found a tendency of authors to make little or no distinction between the terms ethics and bioethics. Often both terms were used in a single paragraph referring to a single situation.

The results revealed a greater use of the term ethics than bioethics in the curriculum. A lack of distinction between the two terms reflects the lack of recognition of bio-ethics as a separate discipline in the literature. There is no evidence that students enrolled in the TAMHSC-COM recognize a difference between an ethical or bioethical perspective. One conclusion is that the TAMHSC-COM instructors followed the trend of the medical field in not emphasizing bioethics as a separate discipline, especially after recognized authors ceased to make that distinction.