Objective: The purpose of this study was to demonstrate how educators involved in the teaching of bioethics to healthcare university students in Japan would cope with ethical disagreement in the classroom, and to identify factors influencing them.
Methods: A cross sectional survey was conducted using self administered questionnaires mailed to a sample of university faculty in charge of bioethics curriculum for university healthcare students.
Results: A total of 107 usable questionnaires were returned: a response rate of 61.5%. When facing ethical disagreement in the classroom, coping behaviour differed depending on the topic of discussion, was influenced by educators’ individual clear ethical attitudes regarding the topic of discussion, and was independent of many respondents’ individual and social backgrounds. Among educators, it was commonly recognised that the purpose of bioethics education was to raise the level of awareness of ethical problems, to provide information about and knowledge of those issues, to raise students’ sensitivity to ethical problems, and to teach students methods of reasoning and logical argument. Yet, despite this, several respondents considered the purpose of bioethics education to be to influence students about normative ethical judgments. There was no clear relationship, however, between ways of coping with ethical disagreement and educators’ sense of the purpose of bioethics education.
Conclusions: This descriptive study suggests that educators involved in bioethics education for healthcare university students in Japan coped in various ways with ethical disagreement. Further research concerning ethical disagreement in educational settings is needed to provide better bioethics education for healthcare students.
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Ethical approval: This study was approved by the research ethics committee at Miyazaki University, School of Medicine.
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