2.5: Ethical Dilemmas



Every professional has to make decisions when faced with ethical dilemmas. Sometimes these are straightforward; sometimes it is harder to find the answers about what is/are the right thing(s) to do in a given situation.

Virtue ethics suggests that it is through the development of practical wisdom that we become ‘better’ at making the right decision when faced with a dilemma. We learn which virtue to prioritise in any given situation. In this section, you are asked to think about some examples of dilemmas that medical professionals may face in their working lives.

Below are 5 dilemmas presented either as an animated film, or as text. Watch/read each dilemma which describe a situation that you may face in practice as medical professionals.

In small groups, or working on your own, carefully consider each dilemma. Imagine yourself to be in the situation described and answer the following questions:



B. Kotzee and A. Ignatowicz- virtue-approaches to medical ethics are becoming ever more influential.  We outline the challenges that exist for studying medical ethics empirically from a virtue-based perspective in the effort to find virtue-based assessments of medical ethics.

P. Gardiner- most moral dilemmas in medicine are analysed using the four principles with some consideration of consequentialism but these frameworks have limitations. Two different moral dilemmas are analysed using virtue ethics in order to illustrate how it can enhance our approach to ethics in medicine.

V. S. Murrell- the goal of this study was to determine differences in moral judgment among students in medical school. The results demonstrate a lack of evolution in the moral reasoning of medical students and raise the issue of what might stimulate positive changes in moral judgment during the medical school experience.

J. B. House, N. Theyyunni, A. R. Barnosky et al- the purpose of this study was to determine and categorise the types of ethical dilemmas encountered by medical students in the ED through reflective essays. The results show that medical students encounter patients with numerous ethically based issues.