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Many Medical Students Lack Confidence in Medical Law

Last Updated: May 20, 2011.

The majority of medical students lack confidence in their knowledge and skills across many areas of medical law, according to a study published online May 16 in the Journal of Medical Ethics.

FRIDAY, May 20 (HealthDay News) -- The majority of medical students lack confidence in their knowledge and skills across many areas of medical law, according to a study published online May 16 in the Journal of Medical Ethics.

Michael Preston-Shoot, Ph.D., from the University of Bedfordshire in Luton, U.K., and colleagues assessed legal knowledge and skills in undergraduate medical students at two U.K. medical schools using a self-audit questionnaire and concept map. The cohort included 1,154 first-, second-, and final-year students.

The investigators found that students agreed that to be a good doctor it is essential to have a thorough understanding of medical laws. Perceptions of law were generally positive but difficulty was identified at the interface between the legal system and codes of medical ethics. Students' confidence was generally low with respect to skills for practicing law in relation to medicine, varying from 25 to 35 percent who felt confident about working in partnerships with patients, to 12 to 20 percent who felt fairly or very confident about using the law to advocate for patients, and 4 to 9 percent who were confident about challenging a hospital or practice's interpretation of a relevant legal position in a case.

"This study shows that the majority of students lack confidence in their knowledge and skills across many areas of medical law. This suggests that in their clinical training, greater attention and time should be given to the practical application of legal knowledge," the authors write.

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