Medical ethics education in Australian and New Zealand (ANZ) medical schools: a mixed methods study to review how medical ethics is taught in ANZ medical programs


The objective of this study was to review the design and delivery of medical ethics (ME) education within medical programs across Australia and New Zealand (ANZ), how current teaching has been informed by the proposed core curriculum published in 2001 by the ATEAM (Braunack-Mayer et al. 2001) and how it could look moving forward. We conducted a mixed methods study using an online questionnaire consisting of 51 items. This included both binary and open-ended questions to categorise and explore similarities and differences in medical ethics curricula in medical programs accredited by the Australian Medical Council (AMC) across ANZ. Participants were asked about curriculum design format, duration, goals, assessments, content areas of their own ME curriculum. Convenors from 18 universities responded (78%). The main commonality was that ME curricula were integrated both longitudinally and laterally with other content. There was also commonality in content areas addressed. The goals, format, educators, and assessments of the ME curricula were highly variable. Most respondents described a curriculum which prioritised knowledge and skill development related to ME. Although the core goals of including knowledge, skills, and attitudinal development in ME curricula are still present, there is no uniformity in terms of format, delivery, or assessment across medical programs in ANZ. This is an area for collaborative development.

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Correspondence to Adrienne Torda.

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Main points:

• ME is an essential component of medical courses in Australia and New Zealand. Although there was some commonality in learning outcomes, and integration with other content, there are a wide variety of approaches in ME curricula design, delivery, and assessment.

• Many ME curricula now also include responsibility for the development and assessmetn of the competency of ‘Professionalism’.

• The wide variability of design, format, delivery and assessment in ME curricula suggests a need for evidence about best practice in this area of medical education.

• Although there is general consensus about goals, ANZ medical programs would benefit from both collaborative evaluation of the different ME curricula, and the development of a common taxonomy or reference set of ANZ competencies as a framework for curricular design.

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Torda, A., Mangos, J.G. Medical ethics education in Australian and New Zealand (ANZ) medical schools: a mixed methods study to review how medical ethics is taught in ANZ medical programs. International Journal of Ethics Education (2020).

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  • Medical education
  • Medical ethics
  • Competencies
  • Professional development
  • Professionalism