Few residency training programmes explicitly require substantive exposure to issues in medical ethics and fewer still have a formal curriculum in this area. Traditional undergraduate medical ethics courses teach preclinical students to identify ethical issues and analyse them at a theoretical level. Residency training, however, is the ideal time to establish the critical behavioural link which makes ethics truly useful in clinical medicine. The General Internal Medicine Residency Training Program at Rhode Island Hospital has developed an integrated, three-year curriculum with the goals of helping residents to perceive ethical issues in clinical practice, to utilise basic philosophical principles in resolving ethical dilemmas and to communicate these issues clearly and sensitively to patients. The curriculum has been well received by residents and has had a hospital-wide impact. We believe that training residents in medical ethics and communication skills is an effective approach to developing physicians' humane qualities.
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