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Ethics and Law in Medicine | Summary of Required Courses | Residency Teaching | Electives


Caring for a patient is a professional and scientific practice; it is also a personal and profoundly human relationship for both the patient and the physician.

In the biopsychosocial tradition of healthcare education at Rochester, Medical Humanities and Bioethics teaching is directed at developing knowledge and skills that can be applied in clinical settings. We focus on three interrelated perspectives throughout the curriculum: the personal, the professional, and the practice. Students reflect on their personal values and beliefs, recognize and critique conflicting perspectives as individuals, as healthcare professionals, as team members, and discuss the implications of these perspectives on the care of patients.

Extracurricular educational activities of the Division include Medical Reader's Theatre presentations for faculty, residents and students, monthly Medical Humanities Noon Conferences, monthly Interdisciplinary Clinical Ethics Noon Conferences, an Annual Lecture, and the G.W. Corner Society for the History of Medicine for the URMC and general Rochester communities. The Division also offers enrichment programs, called Pathways, in Medical Humanities and Bioethics.

Bioethics and Law

The Bioethics and the Law Theme:  An introduction for medical students by Margie Hodges Shaw, JD, PhD, Assistant Professor, Law and Bioethics, Division of Medical Humanities & Bioethics

Bioethics and Law is a major theme integrated throughout the four-year medical school curriculum.  To make good/sound clinical judgments, students need to learn a set of skills and knowledge to navigate an appropriate decision-making process when moral conflicts arise. Students apply skills in self-reflection to identify their own values, emotions, perceptions and motivations, and acknowledge/understand diverse values and beliefs of others, including patients and families and healthcare colleagues. Using methods from the humanities, the Bioethics and Law theme material promotes acquisition or expansion of knowledge and skills relevant to effective clinical practice and guides personal and professional development. Students learn to apply the principles of bioethics to common ethical dilemmas explored through the use of clinical cases, narrative, fiction, and film.  

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Required Courses

First Year

  • Ethics and Law in Medicine: theme, taught in the integrated courses of the curriculum (approximately 15 hours)

Second Year

  • Ethics and Law in Medicine: theme, taught in the integrated courses of the curriculum (approximately 20 hours)

Third Year

Medicine clerkship (six rotations) Clinical Ethics 1 hour
Pediatrics clerkship (six rotations) Informed Consent and Medical Ethics 1 1/2 hours
Literature 1 1/2 hours
Obstetrics clerkship (six rotations) Informed consent 1 hour

Fourth Year

Intensive Case Study Block Varying content integrated through short and long case study exercises 10-20 hours
Informed Consent Selective (offered twice)   2 hours

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Residency Teaching

Faculty in the Division are involved in residency training, including:

  • ICU clinical ethics teaching rounds: Monthly one-hour sessions in PICU, NICU, MICU, SICU, and Hem/Onc BMTU
  • Clinical Ethics skills block for Primary Care Medicine 2nd year residents (4 hours)
    • PICU: Pediatric Intensive Care Unit
    • NICU: Neonatal Intensive Care Unit
    • MICU: Medical Intensive Care Unit
    • SICU: Surgical Intensive Care Unit
    • BTMU: Bone Marrow Transplant Unit

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Throughout the double helix curriculum are opportunities for students to pursue areas of interest. The Division offers a number of electives in humanities and in bioethics, including:

  • Clinical Ethics
  • Clinical Ethics Research
  • Independent Research/Creative Project in Medical Humanities

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