September 09, 2011

Law, ethics on tap for new medical, law students

by Pete Rosenbery

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- Just weeks into their budding legal and medical careers, first-year law and medical school students at Southern Illinois University Carbondale begin to explore critical legal and ethical issues they will soon face.

Professional Responsibility Day will introduce first-year students in the SIU School of Law, SIU School of Medicine, and the University’s MEDPREP program to issues they might face during their professional careers.  The program is now in its 16th year and is part of the law school’s course, “Professionalism and the Law.”

The program begins at 9:30 a.m., Saturday, Sept. 10, in the Hiram H. Lesar Law Building at the SIU School of Law.

About 275 students, faculty, and facilitators will participate this year.  MEDPREP helps eligible students prepare for careers in medicine, dentistry or other health-related fields.


Media Advisory

Reporters, photographers and news crews are welcome to cover some of the small group discussions that start at 10:15 a.m. in various classrooms, but they should be unobtrusive.  Students and faculty will be available for interviews at noon.  For more information, contact Alicia Ruiz, the law school’s director of communication and outreach, at 618/453-8700.

Law school Dean Cynthia L. Fountaine, Ross Silverman, professor and chair of the Department of Medical Humanities in the medical school, Dr. Kevin Dorsey, dean and provost of the medical school and W. Eugene Basanta, the Southern Illinois Healthcare Professor of Law, will deliver opening remarks.

“Professional Responsibility Day is an opportunity for our students to begin to think carefully about how their professional conduct, either as an attorney or a physician, impacts their clients or patients, as well as the integrity of the professions to which they belong,” Fountaine said.  “It is important for students to begin to consider issues such as how to treat confidential

information or how to handle errors, in a safe environment where they can talk through the applicable rules and ethical principles. I think it is particularly helpful for law and medical students to look at these issues together so that they can achieve a better understanding and perspective about the ethical obligations of both professions.”

During Professional Responsibility Day, students will break into small groups to discuss various scenarios.  The scenarios, with the help of law school and medical school faculty, focus on a variety of topics, including patients’ rights, confidentiality, and how physicians and attorneys respond to patients or clients when there are mistakes.  The exercises allow students to recognize and talk about their own views on the issues as a beginning professional student and how those views might adversely affect others.

“The importance is the increased emphasis on professionalism and the increased concern in law schools and medical schools about the education students are receiving concerning professionalism and guiding them in confronting ethical issues,” Basanta said.

Professional Responsibility Day is an integral part of the full-year required course, Basanta said. Other components include first-year students reciting a “Statement of Professional Commitment,” an oath they drafted themselves, and participating in the annual law school induction ceremony.  This year’s ceremony is Sept. 30 in the law school auditorium.