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The medical student and the suicidal patient.
  1. N A Barrett
  1. University of Sydney, Australia.


    Today's medical students are being confronted with ethical situations of far greater complexity than were their predecessors and yet the medical education system does little to prepare students for the ethical dilemmas which they inevitably face when entering the hospital environment. The following article addresses the issues surrounding a case where a patient has told a student in confidence of his plans to commit suicide. What should the student do? The only way for the student to prevent death is by breaking confidentiality because the student has insufficient clinical experience to provide adequate guidance. However, this requires ignoring the patient's right to autonomy, a right enshrined in both case law and medical ethics. Clearly the student's ethical, moral and legal position must be carefully evaluated.

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