Learning and Teaching Medical Ethics and Law: A New Model Developed for Doctors in Training

Publication ID Published Volume
1690 June 5, 2009 5


The authors are developing a model for best practice in learning and teaching medical ethics and law as it relates to a two-year foundation program for teaching doctors in the British NHS (immediately post graduation). The University Hospital of North Staffordshire [UHNS] in the West Midlands has 55 - 60 foundation level doctors in each year. A pilot program was run in 2007 that set out to deliver selected personal and professional development objectives for second year doctors at UHNS. Feedback received was generally positive, and it was more positive when the program was repeated with minor modifications in 2008. The aim of this paper is to share experiences with other interested educators who may be developing similar teaching programs. A key feature of the UHNS program is 'student ownership', and it uses practice-based examples drawn from doctors' own experiences. These are then written up using a template, supported by a well-researched method of case analysis. The materials covered in this model are a practical way of addressing a critical part of doctor/dentist education. This module had good student evaluation, and particular note was made of the joint approach in which the medical ethics specialist and experienced clinician work together. Students draw on their own experience and bring real-life problems to the classroom in a non-threatening environment. It is suggested that the materials from this resource are used as a 'package'. While they will no doubt be adapted to suit local needs, use of the template for writing case studies, for example, helps avoid submissions of inappropriate length and encourages students to address relevant issues, and makes review by the tutor(s) that much easier. Also, the ethical case analysis method has been utilized in a wide variety of settings and is supported by its own research base (not included in the materials) and even if students prefer their own method, this should be worth using when running the module.


Worthington R, Obhrai M. Learning and teaching medical ethics and law: a new model developed for doctors in training. MedEdPORTAL Publications. 2009;5:1690. http://doi.org/10.15766/mep_2374-8265.1690

Educational Objectives

  1. To discuss models of curriculum delivery for doctors and dentists in training (medical ethics and law), and to share educational experience promoting best practice in learning and teaching (graduate medical and dental education).
  2. To facilitate shared understanding and learning with doctors/dentists in training regarding key aspects of professionalism.
  3. To recognize the value of reflective practice and ownership of educational programs for addressing ethical dilemmas within the context of continuing professional development.
  4. To foster open dialogue about values that underpin clinical practice and 'ownership' of the learning and teaching experience.
  5. To encourage personal reflection on core values which may impact the ability to practice medicine/dentistry.
  6. To help doctors and dentists in training recognize and deal with conflicts of interest and challenges to their sense of professionalism.


  • Jurisprudence, Medical Law, Student Ownership, Personal Reflection

Prior Scholarly Dissemination


The case analysis method, developed by RW, was presented at the Department of Health, London (2003) and at the UK Forum for Healthcare Law and Ethics (2004). The background to its development is written up in a book chapter [Critical decision-making: Moving from theory to practice, in Ethics and Palliative Care, Webb P (ed.) Radcliffe Publishing 2005], and the method itself is included in a guidance book on palliative care for primary care physicians [Out-of-Hours Toolkit for GPs; Macmillan Cancer Support 2008]. The template was developed by RW in 2006 for use in seminars run by the General Medical Council (UK).

Material Access

Please sign in to access this material.

Please register for an AAMC account if you do not have one.


  • Contact Us

Subscribe to Our Quarterly Newsletter

Receive featured content & announcements!

ISSN 2374-8265