Teaching Medical Students Moral Methods

Publication ID Published Version
9318 January 24, 2013 9


Ethics is now widely taught in nearly every medical school in the United States. Although we often do an excellent job teaching ethics topics, we are less successful in teaching ethics methods. If we teach only ethics topics, we do students a disservice since they are then only equipped to respond to the particular topics we have taught them about. Conversely, if we are successful in teaching ethics methods, students will be equipped to handle any ethical dilemma they may encounter, since we have given them a framework within which to resolve the problem. The present course, “Finding Right Answers: Resolving Ethical Dilemmas in Medical Practice” was designed to fill this gap, and teach medical students ethics methods.

Student evaluations for the course were positive: students rated the overall helpfulness of the course 4.4 out of 5.0. One student noted, “Every medical student should take an ethics course based on methods. Only discussing cases provides only half of what is necessary to be able to think about the right course of action.” When asked to list the skills students felt more confident in as a result of the course, responses included: 

  • “Being able to recognize ethical conflicts and putting the issue into a particular framework.” 
  • “Approaching and resolving an ethical dilemma.” 
  • “Being objective.” 


Volpe R, Myers K. Teaching Medical Students Moral Methods. MedEdPORTAL Publications; 2013. Available from: https://www.mededportal.org/adea/publication/9318   http://dx.doi.org/10.15766/mep_2374-8265.9318

Educational Objectives

  1. To ensure that students master four methods for moral reasoning: Principlism, Virtue Ethics, Casuistry, and SFNO 
  2. To develop students’ ability to use course concepts in thinking and problem solving 
  3. To further students interpersonal and team interaction skills 
  4. To cultivate an environment of curiosity, collaboration and open-mindedness 


  • Bioethics, Decision Making, Principlism, Casuistry, Morality


  • Interpersonal & Communication Skills
  • Patient Care

Professional Interest

  • Medical Ethics
  • Patient Safety/Medical Errors

Instructional Methods

  • Case-based Instruction/Learning
  • Independent Learning
  • Lecture
  • Problem-based Learning (PBL)

Academic Focus

  • Clinical Sciences
    • Clinical Skills/Doctoring

Intended Audience

  • Professional School
    • Dental Student
    • Medical Student
    • Nursing Student

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ISSN 2374-8265