Purpose: Medical students must have some exposure to bioethics, whether it be at the undergraduate or the postgraduate level. The authors sought to determine the range and ranking of topics taught in bioethics courses at U.S. osteopathic medical schools.
Method: A qualitative study using a repeated-measures design was used to determine curricular offerings at all 19 U.S. osteopathic medical schools. Nominal groups were held to identify an initial topics list. A modified reactive Delphi technique was constructed and three survey iterations were administered.
Results: Bioethics is taught in all osteopathic medical schools, although the numbers of hours dedicated to the subject in the course of a four-year curriculum vary greatly (range 0–40). To further differentiate a curriculum in bioethics, the respondents were asked to rank bioethics topics as essential, foundational, or peripheral to the undergraduate medical curriculum. A total of 16 topics, including confidentiality, informed consent, truth-telling, death and dying, palliative care, and refusal of care, were identified as “essential” for a bioethics curriculum.
Conclusions: Bioethics is taught at osteopathic medical schools, but further studies are needed to recommend guidelines to standardize the curriculum.