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Open Access Debate

Aequilibrium prudentis: on the necessity for ethics and policy studies in the scientific and technological education of medical professionals

Misti Ault Anderson12 and James Giordano2345*

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Microbiology and Immunology, Georgetown University Medical Center, 3900 Reservoir Road, Washington, DC 20057-1440, USA

2 Potomac Institute for Policy Studies, 901 N. Stuart Street, Suite 200, Arlington, VA 22203, USA

3 Neuroethics Studies Program, Edmund D. Pellegrino Center for Clinical Bioethics, and Division of Integrative Physiology, Department of Biochemistry, Georgetown University Medical Center, 4000 Reservoir Rd, Rm. 238, Bldg D, Washington, DC 20057, USA

4 Human Science Center, Ludwig-Maximilians Universität, Goethestraße 31, Munich, D-80336, Germany

5 Human Science Center, Ludwig-Maximilians Universität, Professor Max Lange Platz 11, Bad Tölz, 83646, Germany

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BMC Medical Education 2013, 13:58  doi:10.1186/1472-6920-13-58

Published: 23 April 2013

Abstract

Background

The importance of strong science, technology, engineering, and mathematics education continues to grow as society, medicine, and the economy become increasingly focused and dependent upon bioscientific and technological innovation. New advances in frontier sciences (e.g., genetics, neuroscience, bio-engineering, nanoscience, cyberscience) generate ethical issues and questions regarding the use of novel technologies in medicine and public life.

Discussion

In light of current emphasis upon science, technology, engineering, and mathematics education (at the pre-collegiate, undergraduate, graduate, and professional levels), the pace and extent of advancements in science and biotechnology, the increasingly technological orientation and capabilities of medicine, and the ways that medicine – as profession and practice – can engage such scientific and technological power upon the multi-cultural world-stage to affect the human predicament, human condition, and perhaps nature of the human being, we argue that it is critical that science, technology, engineering, and mathematics education go beyond technical understanding and directly address ethical, legal, social, and public policy implications of new innovations. Toward this end, we propose a paradigm of integrative science, technology, ethics, and policy studies that meets these needs through early and continued educational exposure that expands extant curricula of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics programs from the high school through collegiate, graduate, medical, and post-graduate medical education. We posit a synthetic approach that elucidates the historical, current, and potential interaction of scientific and biotechnological development in addition to the ethico-legal and social issues that are important to educate and sustain the next generation of medical and biomedical professionals who can appreciate, articulate, and address the realities of scientific and biotechnological progress given the shifting architectonics of the global social milieu.

Summary

We assert that current trends in science, technology, medicine, and global politics dictate that these skills will be necessary to responsibly guide ethically sound employment of science, technology, and engineering advancements in medicine so as to enable more competent and humanitarian practice within an increasingly pluralistic world culture.

Keywords:
Medical education; STEM education; Ethics education; Global ethics; Biotechnology