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.
Dr. Peppin is president and director, Iowa Pain Management Clinic, P.C., Center for Bioethics, Pain Management, and Medicine, Des Moines, Iowa. At the time the paper was written, Ms. Leeper was assistant professor, Department of Surgery, Des Moines University—Osteopathic Medical Center; she is now research coordinator, Iowa Pain Management Clinic, P.C., Des Moines. Dr. Garloff is director, Des Moines University—Osteopathic Medical Center, Des Moines, Iowa.
Correspondence and requests for reprints should be addressed to Dr. Peppin, Center for Bioethics, Pain Management, and Medicine, 1235 Eighth Street West, Des Moines, IA 50265.
For an article on a related topic, see page 432.