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Doug M. Post
Family Medicine
The Ohio State University College of Medicine
Saving Superman: Ethics and Stem Cell Research 

This case explores the political and ethical issues associated with stem cell research. Students read the case describing Christopher Reeve’s accident and injuries and his advocacy for stem cell research along with background readings on stem cells and the ethics of stem cell research. They are then assigned to one of four stakeholder groups and asked to develop a position on whether or not the U.S. Senate should expand stem cell research with a focus on the ethics underlying the issue.  They present their positions in class in a simulated public hearing.

Shannon and Jake: An Application of Medical Ethics Principles

This case was developed to teach first-year medical students the basics of medical ethics. It describes a situation in which a family physician is treating a teenage patient for a sexually transmitted disease. Based on information she gives him, he is concerned not only for her health and welfare, but also for the health and welfare of others. Students read the case and discuss the choices the doctor might make using the ethical principles of autonomy, beneficence, non-maleficence, and justice. Students then develop a rationale for the physician acting according to one of the ethical principles identified, and prepare a debate for the class supporting the rationale.

Spirituality and Health Care: A Request for Prayer

In this medical ethics case, a fourth-year medical student making hospital rounds with an attending physician and several residents is asked by a family member of a patient to pray with her.  The case allows medical students to explore issues related to patients’ religious beliefs as they think through how they might respond to different expectations and requests they may receive from patients and their families in their professional career. The case is appropriate for use with medical students in all four years of training as well as interns and residents.

The 2000-Meter Row: A Case Study in Performance Anxiety 

This case study is based on another case in our collection, The 2000-Meter Row: A Case in Homeostasis, which emphasizes the metabolic, respiratory, and cardiac responses of a young athlete competing in a championship rowing event. In this modified version, the same event is viewed in a new light to explore the psychological ramifications of the stressful sports competition. The case was developed for a mixed undergraduate-graduate course in sport psychology.

The Plan: Ethics and Physician Assisted Suicide 

This case study on physician-assisted suicide is used in a medical ethics course. The case itself is a short article published in 1991 in the New England Journal of Medicine in which Dr. Timothy E. Quill described his care for a patient suffering from acute leukemia, including how he prescribed a lethal dose of barbiturates knowing that the woman intended to commit suicide. As a consequence of the article's publication, a grand jury was convened to consider a charge of manslaughter against Dr. Quill. Students read the case and then, as part of a classroom-simulated trial, discuss physician-assisted suicide in terms of fundamental medical ethics principals. The case could also be used in a graduate-level bioethics class.

To Tell the Truth: Delivering Bad News to Patients

This case was developed to teach first-year medical students about medical ethics as they apply to patient communication. Students receive an introductory lecture covering the basics of giving bad news and then are asked to apply what they have learned to a real-life medical situation they read about. The case describes a man who, recently retired, is looking forward to a cruise trip with his wife, but he hasn’t been feeling well. Medical tests show he has colon cancer. Assuming the role of the physician, students must decide when and how to break the bad news. To prepare for their role, students learn the six-step protocol for breaking bad news developed by medical oncologist Dr. Robert Buckman, which they then apply to the case.