Using attitude surveys in medical ethics research and teaching: the example of undergraduate willingness to treat HIV-infected patients

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As a break from the usual lecture or case discussion to teach medical ethics, this paper reports on the utilization of attitudinal surveys in ethical areas where students face a choice of behaviours. The technique can stimulate students to better understand their own attitudes and hopefully motivate them to overcome resistance to more ethical but perhaps less desirable behaviours. However, the technique also serves as the basis for empirical ethical research. The first section of the paper provides background on the conceptualization of attitudes, their measurement, and the statistical techniques for their analysis. In the second section, the special characteristics of medical students as a study population and ethical considerations in surveying them are discussed. Thirdly, the author uses his work in researching and in teaching about students' willingness to treat patients infected with HIV as an example of survey and analytical techniques. Finally, methods for using surveys in the classroom are presented.

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