Thursday, January 28, 2010

The moral education of doctors

Here is a classic article on medical education.

I agree that doctors should be educated in morals and ethics as well as medical science.

In fact, I'll go further: there's no such thing as moral neutrality in any sort of education including physician education so where possible we ought to teach right morals by which I mean Biblical morals and ethics.

For example, secular schools may profess to teach "just the facts" but that's not true. Secular schools believe in secular morals - tolerance, pluralism, methodological naturalism, etc. Each of these is or entails a moral position.

What's more, secular schools require students who attend their university to subscribe to secular morals. Or, short of that, they will try to educate and persuade students to subscribe to secular morals.

Not to mention many if not most med schools require some sort of medical ethics class anyway.

So I don't see why evangelical Christians can't also be active in educating students including med students in morals and ethics.

In fact, our taxes support public med schools.

As for the article's recommended books to use in such a moral curriculum, I'm not entirely sure which ones I'd suggest if I were ever asked to do so. Obviously I'd pick the Bible. I think even non-Christians should understand it. Also, I'd pick a Christian medical ethics book like the one by John Frame and/or his Doctrine of the Christian Life. Perhaps a book on suffering like D.A. Carson's How Long, O Lord? would be good too. But apart from these, I don't know which other books I'd pick to educate future doctors in morals or ethics. Maybe a work of literature like a novel or poem? Maybe a biography or autobiography? Maybe I'd just recommend a new iPad?

I don't know that I'd necessarily need to stick as closely to Western heritage in the choice of books as does the author of the article though (he picked Plato, Aristotle, Shakespeare, and Dostoevsky).

Oftentimes we can learn much from books with which we disagree or find distasteful. But my preference here would be positive, even explicit moral and ethical instruction and education, building a moral and ethical foundation and framework in which to think and function, first and foremost.

Perhaps as significant as which books are taught are which instructors are doing the teaching. I'll assume the books would be taught by an evangelical Christian, and ideally a Reformed Christian.

Of course, practically working all this out is easier said than done.

BTW, Al Mohler posted some thoughts on the aforementioned article some years back.

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