Equipping African Medical Students with Ethical Decision-Making Skills: a Case-Based Method from Burundi

  • Eric McLaughlin Hope Africa University, Bujumbura
  • Alyssa Pfister Hope Africa University, Bujumbura
Keywords: Medical Ethics, Medical education, East Africa, Burundi, Case-based ethics


In addition to medical ethical issues faced in every context globally, many African contexts have the challenge of additional ethical scenarios particular to African culture, resource limitation, and more varied levels of professional expertise.  In an effort to equip medical trainees with the knowledge and skills to confront these situations well and from a particularly Christian vantage point, we developed a bioethics module for medical students in Burundi, which begins with a didactic ethics lecture and spends most of the time on student-led, facilitated case discussions.  The cases were designed to highlight problems specifically created by the particularities of our rural, East African, under-resourced context.  Five rounds of implementing this module have shown a positive and interactive reception, with students critically thinking about the problems, engaging in personal application, and being willing to disagree with each other.  Evaluation after each module has resulted in some cases being discarded and others modified.  Facilitation of case discussions has been especially aided by structuring cases that specifically force the making of a difficult ethical decision, soliciting an articulation of any disagreements existing within the presenting group, and exploring permutations of each case in order to see if that changes opinions and to clarify the underlying ethical principles at play.  In our setting, the creation of bioethical case scenarios that are specifically applicable to the context of our East African learners has been helpful in making a module with useful content in growing the ethical decision-making capacity of the participants.

Author Biographies

Eric McLaughlin, Hope Africa University, Bujumbura

MD, FAAFP, Professor of Family Medicine

Alyssa Pfister, Hope Africa University, Bujumbura

MD, FAAP, DTM&H, Professor of Pediatrics


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How to Cite
McLaughlin, E., & Pfister, A. (2018). Equipping African Medical Students with Ethical Decision-Making Skills: a Case-Based Method from Burundi. Christian Journal for Global Health, 5(3), 23-28. https://doi.org/10.15566/cjgh.v5i3.229