February 1991

A Medical Ethics Issues Survey of Residents in Five Pediatric Training Programs

Author Affiliations

From The Center for Clinical and Research Ethics, Vanderbilt University Medical Center (Drs White, Hickson, and Zaner), and The Clinical Research Center, Meharry Medical College (Dr White and Ms Theriot), Nashville, Tenn.

Am J Dis Child. 1991;145(2):161-164. doi:10.1001/archpedi.1991.02160020051015

• Few pediatric training programs offer formal instruction or have ethics consultants to assist residents with ethical dilemmas. Moreover, even if such assistance were available, it is not clear that educators have an adequate understanding of (1) the range and frequency of possible ethical dilemmas residents may encounter, (2) residents' most troublesome concerns, (3) their use of resources to resolve issues, and (4) their own ethics belief systems. A sample of convenience (51 residents) at five midsouth residency programs was queried during 25-minute open-ended interviews to answer ethical questions; there were no refusals to participate. The "most troublesome" cases cited by the residents were related to life-and-death issues (withholding and withdrawing life support), child abuse and neglect cases, and disputes regarding patient care that arise between services. Two thirds of those surveyed indicated that they are still somewhat troubled by these difficult ethical problems. Surprisingly, residents stated that they relied on their peers more often than their attending physicians for effective assistance in resolving their most troublesome dilemmas. We support continuing education and research efforts to help residents and educators feel "more comfortable" in resolving ethical dilemmas.

(AJDC. 1991;145:161–164)