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Skills and Science of Doctoring

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Skills and Science of Doctoring

“Students, like all human beings, have a moral obligation to prevent serious harm when they can do so at little risk or cost to themselves” (Primum non tacere). I agree that a medical student, more than the average citizen, has an obligation to service all people, regardless of nationality, religion, or sexuality. However, medical students are in contact with ill patients more than the average citizen and this constant interaction with the sick make medical students more susceptible to acquiring disease. This fact alone increases the fear that a medical student has about treating certain illnesses, and it may cause him to deny treatment to a sub-population of patients with a specific illness. You might be wondering whether such a denial is ethical, and according to the American Disabilities Act, physicians cannot discriminate against a subset of patients with a specific illness simply because they (physicians) are fearful of acquiring the disease. Withholding treatment from a select group of patients on the basis of fear is unlawful for a physician, and perhaps even unethical. Is it, however, unethical for a medical student to withhold treatment simply because of fear? The American Disabilities Act does not mention medical students, and the title “medical student” is not synonymous with the title “physician”, so students, unlike physicians, are not bound by the law to serve any ill patient. The law and ethics, however, don’t always coincide, so let us evaluate a medical student’s choice of placing his well being over that of a patient.

Medical students are on their way to becoming physicians. They are sometimes referred to as “physicians-in-training”, and as such, they should feel...

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...ally, if this alternative doesn’t work, I think suppressing one’s fear is the next choice. It’s a difficult pill to swallow, since students are exposed to illnesses daily and don’t have enough knowledge or training to adequately protect themselves. In addition, fear is a powerful, natural emotion that is not easily ignored. However, students must learn medicine and they cannot always learn it on their terms. Hopefully, future third and fourth year medical students will have understanding supervisors, and if not, will have the strength to treat patients whose diseases they fear. If, however, you are a medical student who does not have either, my final suggestion to you would be to find a nice spot in the bathroom in which to hide.

Works Cited

Dwyer, James. Primum non tacere: An Ethics of Speaking Up: Hastings Center Report.

24, no.1, (1994) 13-18.