Why and How to Teach Surgical Ethics?

  • Jonathan K. ChicaEmail author
  • Jason D. Keune


Although ethics may seem trivial compared with the acuity of surgical care that one encounters as a surgeon, ethics plays an important role in the care of patients. Ethics has been taught traditionally throughout medical school; however, there appears to be less emphasis during residency. A lack of emphasis in surgical ethics may translate to less knowledge in these matters when one is in practice. This chapter focuses on why and how to teach surgical ethics. With respect to the “why,” we argue that although there may be a “hidden curriculum” embedded in surgical practice, if there is not a formal presence of surgical ethics throughout training, principles in ethics may well easily be altered. We touch on the topic of moral disengagement, define what is a moral emergency, and stress on the importance of being well-informed and prepared for future ethical dilemmas, especially in a world where new technology is constantly making itself more and more present in medicine. This chapter also highlights different ways in which that surgical ethics may be taught, such as a case-based format of teaching, where the concept of casuistry is emphasized. Other ways of teaching surgical ethics include creating a formal curriculum and incorporating it into morbidity and mortality conference. In conclusion, ethics in surgery plays a vital role in the global care of patients and should be taught throughout surgical training and extending past residency. Although there may not be a “best” way to teach surgical ethics, many options are available to be able to easily incorporate it into practice.


Surgical ethics Hidden curriculum Moral emergency Casuistry Ethics in surgery M&M Core competencies Professionalism 


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© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.St. Louis UniversitySt. LouisUSA

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