Teaching Corner: “First Do No Harm”: Teaching Global Health Ethics to Medical Trainees Through Experiential Learning

Journal of Bioethical Inquiry 12 (1):69-78 (2015)
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Abstract

Recent studies show that returning global health trainees often report having felt inadequately prepared to deal with ethical dilemmas they encountered during outreach clinical work. While global health training guidelines emphasize the importance of developing ethical and cultural competencies before embarking on fieldwork, their practical implementation is often lacking and consists mainly of recommendations regarding professional behavior and discussions of case studies. Evidence suggests that one of the most effective ways to teach certain skills in global health, including ethical and cultural competencies, is through service learning. This approach combines community service with experiential learning. Unfortunately, this approach to global health ethics training is often unattainable due to a lack of supervision and resources available at host locations. This often means that trainees enter global health initiatives unprepared to deal with ethical dilemmas, which has the potential for adverse consequences for patients and host institutions, thus contributing to growing concerns about exploitation and “medical tourism.” From an educational perspective, exposure alone to such ethical dilemmas does not contribute to learning, due to lack of proper guidance. We propose that the tension between the benefits of service learning on the one hand and the respect for patients’ rights and well-being on the other could be resolved by the application of a simulation-based approach to global health ethics education

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