Is it ok to manipulate other variables when given an ethics question?

Oct 13, 2015
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Suppose an interviewer gives you an ethics question. Are you allowed to answer the question and also say "but xyz should also be done"?

xyz weren't part of the question

A part of me feels that it's kind of a cop out. But also makes it a more human-like answer.
 

Lannister

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I think you're thinking too much into this. Know the difference between wrong and right and you'll be fine. It's always necessary to take other variables into account when it comes to ethics, but I highly doubt any interview question would be that complicated.
 

walloobi

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I think you're thinking too much into this. Know the difference between wrong and right and you'll be fine. It's always necessary to take other variables into account when it comes to ethics, but I highly doubt any interview question would be that complicated.
And know basic laws related to medical practice. Knowing the difference between right and wrong is often superseded by the law, which actually makes these types of ethical questions much easier to answer given that almost no interviewer would expect you to break the law in order to be "ethical." I was going through some ethical MMI practice questions with a friend of mine who knows nothing about medicine or basic medical ethics, and the answers he suggested for many questions would be shocking to adcoms even though he felt they were justified in a purely moral sense, unrelated to well-known regulations. The counterintuitive ones tend to be about things like autonomy and confidentiality (i.e. should you provide an emergent life-saving procedure to a patient even though it violates their religion? should you violate your responsibility to maintain the confidentiality of one patient for the sake of public health? at what level of intellectual disability (or with what psychiatric disorders) can a patient no longer truly give consent?). Laws should probably trump your personal sense of right and wrong in these cases, at least in an interview situation.

OP, I think you're fine in mentioning "xyz" as long as you truly answer the main point of the question, and don't focus on the tangent in order to skirt the ethical dilemma. It's the most annoying thing in the world when you pose a hypothetical, and only get a response filled with technicalities meant to weasel out of the question.
 
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NimbleNavigator

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I think you're thinking too much into this. Know the difference between wrong and right and you'll be fine. It's always necessary to take other variables into account when it comes to ethics, but I highly doubt any interview question would be that complicated.
What do you mean by this?
 

NimbleNavigator

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I think s/he's just saying that ethics questions in interviews will tend to be simple enough to answer appropriately with common sense morality. I don't necessarily agree and I think it's a bit of an oversimplification, but I'm pretty sure that's what s/he's getting at.
So @Lannister, what is common sense morality?
 

Lannister

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What do you mean by this?
So @Lannister, what is common sense morality?
I know in real life it's more complicated than that, but not for the sake of medical school interviews. It's wrong to do something that would harm your patient. It's wrong do share your patient's private information with others who are not involved in their care. It's good to respect cultural differences between you and your patients. I'd hope that stuff is common sense.

I'm just trying to say that I don't think studying ethics before an interview, like so many people want to do, is worth it. Just go off of what you already know.
 

walloobi

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I know in real life it's more complicated than that, but not for the sake of medical school interviews. It's wrong to do something that would harm your patient. It's wrong do share your patient's private information with others who are not involved in their care. It's good to respect cultural differences between you and your patients. I'd hope that stuff is common sense.
But the whole point of ethical dilemmas is to pit those values against each other. i.e. when a patient's religion prohibits blood transfusions and they're bleeding out on your operating table, you have to decide between preventing harm to your patient and respecting your cultural differences. That's a pretty common ethical dilemma for interviews. If common sense always did the trick, they wouldn't really be dilemmas. Haha it's not like they ask you "is it ethical or unethical to violate confidentiality rules for no reason?"
 

Lannister

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But the whole point of ethical dilemmas is to pit those values against each other. i.e. when a patient's religion prohibits blood transfusions and they're bleeding out on your operating table, you have to decide between preventing harm to your patient and respecting your cultural differences. That's a pretty common ethical dilemma for interviews. If common sense always did the trick, they wouldn't really be dilemmas. Haha it's not like they ask you "is it ethical or unethical to violate confidentiality rules for no reason?"
But I don't think the interviewer expects the interviewee to arrive at any one "correct" ethical answer. I would think they just want the interviewee to talk through their thought process and use what they know about ethics to think through the question. I might be wrong about that, I don't know. But that's how it was at my MMI.


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AnatomyGrey12

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Mad Jack

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Suppose an interviewer gives you an ethics question. Are you allowed to answer the question and also say "but xyz should also be done"?

xyz weren't part of the question

A part of me feels that it's kind of a cop out. But also makes it a more human-like answer.
Just answer the question.