On and Off the Playing Field: Ethics in Medicine
Abstract

Abstract:

The sportscasters' metaphor, "on and off the playing field," is used to describe the altruistic demeanor of good ethical and moral behavior and empathy toward patients that is required of medical students and physicians. It has been noted that these altruistic qualities often compete unsuccessfully with scientific skills and scholarly pursuits. Many schools hold the "White Coat Ceremony" annually and host a chapter of the Honor Medical Society to instill these traits in students. Teaching of altruistic demeanor is most successful using a combination of techniques, which include philosophy, virtue theory, small-group discussions using case vignettes, and the structured objective clinical examination with "standardized patients." On the playing field, current major issues are intellectual honesty, mandatory testing/treatment for HIV/AIDS, abortion, end-of-life issues, and gene therapy. Off the playing field, family, religion, community service, and leadership will immortalize medical students in the mythical Health Care Hall of Fame.