This paper investigates the medical law and ethics (MEL) learning needs of Foundation doctors (FYs) by means of a national survey developed in association with key stakeholders including the General Medical Council and Health Education England. Four hundred sevnty-nine doctors completed the survey. The average self-reported level of preparation in MEL was 63%. When asked to rate how confident they felt in approaching three cases of increasing ethical complexity, more FYs were fully confident in the more complex cases than in the more standard case. There was no apparent relationship with confidence and reported teaching at medical school. The less confident doctors were no more likely to ask for further teaching on the topic than the confident doctors. This suggests that FYs can be vulnerable when facing ethical decisions by being underprepared, not recognising their lack of ability to make a reasoned decision or by being overconfident. Educators need to be aware of this and provide practical MEL training based on trainee experiences and real-world ethics and challenge learners’ views. Given the complexities of many ethical decisions, preparedness should not be seen as the ability to make a difficult decision but rather a recognition that such cases are difficult, that doubt is permissible and the solution may well be beyond the relatively inexperienced doctor. Educators and supervisors should therefore be ensuring that this is clear to their trainees. This necessitates an environment in which questions can be asked and uncertainty raised with the expectation of a supportive response.
- clinical ethics
- education for health care professionals
Data availability statement
All data relevant to the study are included in the article
Statistics from Altmetric.com
If you wish to reuse any or all of this article please use the link below which will take you to the Copyright Clearance Center’s RightsLink service. You will be able to get a quick price and instant permission to reuse the content in many different ways.