How we developed a bioethics theme in an undergraduate medical curriculum

Kulsoom Ghias, Aga Khan University
Syeda Kauser Ali, Aga Khan University
Kausar S. Khan, Aga Khan University
Robyna Khan, Aga Khan University
Murad M. Khan, Aga Khan University
Arshi Farooqui, Aga Khan University
Parvez Nayani, Aga Khan University


The 5-year undergraduate medical curriculum at Aga Khan University integrates basic sciences with clinical and community health sciences. Multimodal strategies of teaching and learning, with an emphasis on problem-based learning, are utilized to equip students with knowledge, skills, behaviours, attitudes and values necessary for a high-calibre medical graduate. Bioethics teaching was introduced in the medical curriculum in 1988 and has since undergone several changes. In 2009, a multidisciplinary voluntary group began review of undergraduate bioethics teaching and invested over 350 man-hours in curricular revision. This involved formulating terminal objectives, delineating specific objectives and identifying instructional methodologies and assessment strategies appropriate for the contents of each objective. Innovative strategies were specially devised to work within the time constraints of the existing medical curriculum and importantly, to increase student interest and engagement. The new bioethics curriculum is designed to be comprehensive and robust, and strives to develop graduates who, in addition to being technically skilled and competent, are well-versed in the history and philosophy of ethics and bioethics and are ethical in their thinking and practice, especially in the context of a developing country like Pakistan where health indicators are among the worst in the region, and clinical practices are not effectively regulated to ensure quality of care.