Evaluating ethical sensitivity in medical students: using vignettes as an instrument

P. Hebert, E. M. Meslin, N. Byrne, S. Ross Reid, E. V. Dunn

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

71 Scopus citations


As a preliminary step to beginning to assess the usefulness of clinical vignettes to measure ethical sensitivity in undergraduate medical students, five clinical vignettes with seven to nine ethical issues each were created. The ethical issues in the vignettes were discussed and outlined by an expert panel. One randomly selected vignette was presented to first, second and third year students at the University of Toronto as part of another examination. The students were asked to list the issues presented by the paint problem. Responses from 281 students were obtained. These students identified an average of 2.72 ethical issues per vignette. Each response was classified under the domains of autonomy, beneficence and justice. Comparisons were made between classes and between vignettes. There was considerable variation between classes and the responses to different vignettes seem to indicate that different vignettes measure the various domains in different ways. It does appear that the use of vignettes is one way to measure aspects of ethical sensitivity in medical students but more study is required to clarify exactly what is being measured.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)141-145
Number of pages5
JournalJournal of Medical Ethics
Issue number3
StatePublished - 1990

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Issues, ethics and legal aspects
  • Health(social science)
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Health Policy

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