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Prepared for practice? Law teaching and assessment in UK medical schools

Abstract

A revised core curriculum for medical ethics and law in UK medical schools has been published. The General Medical Council requires medical graduates to understand law and ethics and behave in accordance with ethical and legal principles. A parallel policy agenda emphasises accountability, the development of professionalism and patient safety. Given the renewed focus on teaching and learning law alongside medical ethics and the development of professional identity, this survey aimed to identify how medical schools are responding to the preparation of medical students for practice in the future. Questions were asked about the location, content and methods of teaching and assessment of law in undergraduate medical education. Examples of course documentation were requested to illustrate the approaches being taken. A 76% response rate was achieved. Most responding schools integrate law teaching with medical ethics, emphasising both the acquisition of knowledge and its application in a clinical context. Teaching, learning and assessment of law in clinical attachments is much less formalised than that in non-clinical education. Coverage of recommended topic areas varies, raising questions about the degree to which students can embed their knowledge and skills in actual practice. More positively, teaching does not rely on single individuals and clear descriptions were offered for problem-based and small group case-based learning. Further research is required to explore whether there are optimum ways of ensuring that legal knowledge, and skills in its use, form part of the development of professionalism among doctors in training.

  • Assessment
  • education/programmes
  • ethics
  • law
  • medical education
  • teaching
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