Teaching medical ethics and law has become much more prominent in medical student education, largely as a result of a 1998 consensus statement on such teaching. Ethics is commonly taught at undergraduate level using lectures and small group tutorials, but there is no recognised method for transferring this theoretical knowledge into practice and ward-based learning. This reflective article by a Sheffield university undergraduate medical student describes the value of using a student-selected component to study practical clinical ethics and the use of a clinical ethics checklist. The ethical checklist was proposed by Sokol as a tool for use by medical staff during the ward round to prompt the consideration of important ethical principles in relation to care. This paper describes additional uses for the checklist as a tool for teaching and learning about the practical application of ethical principles and for observing professional behaviours within a critical care and acute care environment. Evidence suggests that putting ethical behaviour into practice offers a far greater challenge to a newly qualified doctor than has been appreciated, and that more needs to be done at an undergraduate level to help combat this. This paper argues from a personal standpoint of an individual student experience that this can best be done in a clinical medical setting.
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