Observations Ethics Man

Of interviews and examination machines

BMJ 2010; 341 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.c6899 (Published 01 December 2010) Cite this as: BMJ 2010;341:c6899
  1. Daniel K Sokol, honorary senior lecturer in medical ethics, Imperial College London
  1. daniel.sokol{at}talk21.com

Incessant assessment at medical school risks the loss of the skills of reflection, deliberation, and communication among tomorrow’s doctors

I was once paid a neat little sum to give a lecture. It was no keynote address to a distinguished audience in the Caribbean but a talk to 200 or so school leavers who were preparing for medical school interviews. Why an ethicist? Because it is not unusual for 20% of an admissions interview to be about ethics. A good answer displays maturity and nimbleness of thought and lifts the candidate above the rest. A poor one can signal the end of the road or, at best, an uphill struggle for the rest of the interview. Most candidates make an acceptable but unimpressive effort, usually far too one sided.

The ethics questions at admissions interview tend to be the old chestnuts. Do you think people should have the right to die? Should we allow people to sell their organs? Should parents be allowed to choose the sex of their baby? Generally it is not so much the candidate’s position on an issue that matters as how he or she articulates and justifies that position. An …

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