- Kwang-ho Meng, M.D. Catholic University of Korea College of Medicine
It was in early 1980s when two Christian medical schools, one Catholic and one protestant out of 21 medical schools in Korea at that time began teaching medical ethics to the students as a regular teaching subject.
Development and practices of contraceptive and reproductive technologies in 1960s and 70s in Korea were thought to be the major motivations of this curricular change in those Christian medical schools. In view of the Christian ethics, family planning and some of the contraceptive technologies were controversial.
In 1993, the total number of medical schools in Korea increased to 29 and those providing medical ethics courses increased to 12 medical schools(41.4%). Introduction of national medical insurance and health care delivery system in early 1980s created many other ethical dilemmas particularly in terms of doctor-patient relationship and patient autonomy, and the medical schools needed to include courses dealing with those dilemma situations in their curricula.
According to the 2000-2002 Data Book of Korean Medical Schools published by the Korean Association of Medical School Deans, among all 41 medical schools, 33 medical schools(80.5%) are now offering some sorts of medical ethics related courses to their students.
Out of 33 medical schools offering the medical ethics related courses, 28(84.8%) medical schools are using 'Medical Ethics' as their course title, and 5(15.2%) are using other titles such as 'Physician and Society', 'Doctor-Patient Relationship' and 'Medical Philosophy'.
It is assumed that the Korean Medical College Accreditation System began in 1996 and the establishment of the Korean Society for Medical Ethics Education in 1997 contributed a great deal to this dramatic development in medical ethics teaching in Korean medical schools.
One particular evaluation standard of the Korean Medical College Accreditation System is about whether the medical school has a proper teaching mechanism of humanities including medical ethics, and the Korean Society for Medical Ethics Education has been helping medical schools in developing medical ethics courses by providing academic conferences and reference materials such as medical ethics textbook and journals.
This paper analyzes the pattern of medical ethics teaching in Korean medical schools and discuss some challenges the medical schools face in successfully promoting the ethics teaching in medical schools. This paper also introduces the activities of the Korean Society for Medical Ethics Education.