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One of the greatest challenges facing medical students today, apart from absorbing volumes of technical information and learning habits of scientific thought, is that of remaining empathetic to the needs of patients in the face of all this rigorous training. Requiring students to immerse themselves completely in medical coursework risks disconnecting them from the personal and ethical aspects of doctoring, and such strictly scientific thinking is insufficient for grappling with modern ethical dilemmas. For these reasons, aspiring physicians need to develop new ways of thinking about and interacting with patients. Training in ethics that takes narrative literature as its primary subject is one method of accomplishing this.
Although training in ethics is currently provided by medical schools, this training relies heavily on an abstract, philosophical view of ethics. Although the conceptual clarity provided by a traditional ethics course can be valuable, theorizing about ethics contributes little to the understanding of everyday human experience or to preparing medical students for the multifarious ethical dilemmas they will face as physicians. A true foundation in ethics must be predicated on an understanding of human behavior that reflects a wide array of relationships and readily adapts to various perspectives, for this is what is required to develop empathy. Ethics courses drawing on narrative literature can better help students prepare for ethical dilemmas precisely because such literature attaches its readers so forcefully to the concrete and varied would of human events.
The act of reading narrative literature is uniquely suited to the development of what might be called flexible ethical thinking. To grasp the development of character, to tangle with heightening moral crises, and to engage oneself with the story not as one’s own but nevertheless as something recognizable and worthy of attention, readers must use their moral imagination. Giving oneself over to the ethical conflicts in a story requires the abandonment of strictly absolute, inviolate sets of moral principles. Reading literature also demands that the reader adopt another person’s point of view –that of the narrator or a character in a story—and thus requires the ability to depart from one’s personal ethical stance and examine moral issues from new perspectives.
It does not follow that readers, including medical professionals, must relinquish all moral principles, as is the case with situational ethics, in which decisions about ethical choices are made on the basis of intuition ad are entirely relative to the circumstances in which they arise. Such an extremely relativistic stance would have as little benefit for the patient or physician as would a dogmatically absolutist one. Fortunately, the incorporation of narrative literature into the study of ethics, while serving as a corrective to the later stance, need not lead to the former. But it can give us something that is lacking in the traditional philosophical study of ethics—namely, a deeper understanding of human nature that can serve as a foundation for ethical reasoning and allow greater flexibility in the application of moral principles.
21. Which one of the following most accurately states the main point of the passage? (A) Training in ethics that incorporates narrative literature would better cultivate flexible ethical thinking and increase medical students’ capacity for empathetic patient care as compared with the traditional approach of medical schools to such training. (B) Traditional abstract ethical training, because it is too heavily focused on theoretical reasoning, tends to decrease or impair that medical student’s sensitivity to modern ethical dilemmas. (C) Only a properly designed curriculum that balances situational, abstract, and narrative approaches to ethics will adequately prepare the medical student for complex ethical confrontations involving actual patients. (D) Narrative-based instruction in ethics is becoming increasingly popular in medical schools because it requires students to develop a capacity for empathy by examining complex moral issues from a variety of perspectives. (E) The study of narrative literature in medical schools would nurture moral intuition, enabling the future doctor to make ethical decisions without appeal to general principles.
22. Which one of the following most accurately represents the author’s use of the term “moral imagination “in line 38? (A) a sense of curiosity, aroused by reading, that leads one to follow actively the development of problems involving the characters depicted in narratives. (B) A faculty of seeking out and recognizing the ethical controversies involved in human relationships and identifying oneself with one side or another in such controversies (C) A capacity to understand the complexities of various ethical dilemmas and to fashion creative and innovative solutions to them (D) An ability to understand personal aspects of ethically significant situations even if one is not a direct participant and to empathize with those involved in them. (E) An ability to act upon ethical principles different from one’s own for the sake of variety.
23. It can be inferred from the passage that the author would most likely agree with which one of the following statements? (A) The heavy load of technical coursework in today’s medical schools often keeps them from giving adequate emphasis to courses in medical ethics. (B) Students learn more about ethics through the use of fiction than through the use of non-fictional readings. (C) The traditional method of ethical training in medical schools should be supplemented or replaced by more direct practical experience with real-life patients in ethically difficult situations. (D) The failing of an abstract, philosophical training in ethics can be remedied only by replacing it with a purely narrative-based approach. (E) Neither scientific training nor traditional philosophical ethics adequately prepares doctors to deal with the emotional dimension of patients’ needs.
25. Which one of the following is most likely the author’s overall purpose in the passage? (A) To advise medical schools on how to implement a narrative-based approach to ethics in their curricula. (B) To argue that the current methods of ethics education are counterproductive to the formation of empathetic doctor-patient relationships. (C) To argue that the ethical content of narrative literature foreshadows the pitfalls of situational ethics. (D) To propose an approach to ethical training in medical school that will preserve the human dimension of medicine. (E) To demonstrate the value of a well-designed ethics education for medical students.
26. The passage ascribes each of the following characteristics to the use of narrative literature in ethical education EXCEPT: (A) It tends to avoid the extreme relativism of situational ethics. (B) It connects students to varied types of human events. (C) It can help lead medical students to develop new ways of dealing with patients. (D) It requires students to examine moral issues from new perspectives. (E) It can help insulate future doctors from the shock of the ethical dilemmas they will confront.
27. The author’s attitude regarding the traditional method of teaching ethics in medical school can most accurately be described as (A) unqualified disapproval of the method and disapproval of all of its effects (B) reserved judgment regarding the method and disapproval of all of its effects (C) partial disapproval of the method and clinical indifference toward its effects (D) partial approval of the method and disapproval of all of its effects (E) partial disapproval of the method and approval of some of its effects