Without a doubt, you will be asked ethic questions during your medical school and residency interviews. Schools want to see that you have a basic understanding of the many ethical decisions faced in medicine.
A popular resource many medical students swear by and recommend is “Doing Right” by Dr. Philip Hebert, a bioethics professor at the University of Toronto.
The fact that so many successful applicants have raved about it have lead to people to wonder whether reading Doing Right is necessary. Some are so curious about the book that they try to illegally download it, a book on ethics. Ironic!
Still, others claim the book is good but overpriced. You can teach someone ethics, but you can’t make them an ethical person. Can a book really help you understand ethics better? With so much discussion, I decided to take a second look and do a book review on this classic – specifically with using it as an interview resource in mind.
What’s in the Book
Luckily, I had an old copy of Doing Right on my shelf at home. The last time it was used was before medical school. As far as I can tell, the new edition’s content is largely similar.
The book is divided into nine chapters that discuss basic ethical principles. After re-reading the book, I believe the first chapter is perhaps the most important section. Dr. Hebert gives you an excellent approach on how to analyze and respond to ethical situations.
The subsequent chapters cover the main ethical principles of autonomy, beneficence/non-maleficence and justice. Each sections is further broken down and important bio-ethical terms and concepts are explained. Topics of confidentiality, disclosure, consent, privacy, truth telling, directives, duty of care, negligence and ethico-legal are clearly explained using cases.
Overall, Dr. Hebert explains key concepts using simple language. The cases are the strongest part of the book, as they help illustrate the many principles with concrete examples. You will understand how tackle common scenarios such as blood transfusions in Jehovah’s Witnesses and euthanasia thoroughly and thoughtfully.
The book is easy to read, and at 186 pages, you can finish most of it in a few hours. The layout of the book, with its distinct sections and grey boxes for comments, makes it easy to skim through.
Does it Help You Prepare for Medical Interviews?
Reading it now, the content in this book is certainly not unique. Any bioethics text will have the same information. However, it is a convenient source that is well organized and understandable to the lay person.
I remember when I first read this book to prepare for my own interviews. I found familiarizing myself with the right terminology helped organize my responses better.
Furthermore, Dr. Hebert’s summary on page 20 (see image) is a solid way to approach any ethics Multiple Mini Interview (MMI) station. In fact, you should approach all your MMI stations with the same organization and thoroughness that Dr. Hebert suggests.
- Quick and easy read
- Good introduction to medical law and ethics – basic explanations of key terms clear
- Cases help solidify the many aspects of ethics. Cases are quite similar to real MMI stations
- Excellent approach to analyzing and working through ethical situations
- Some sections are not needed for interview preparations eg. Minimal vs Optimal Justice
- Apart from the cases, the explanations can be sometimes too long and overly detailed
- Price – it costs almost $50 on Amazon
Overall, I would still recommend Doing Right as a resource to use to prepare for medical school interviews, especially if it is a MMI.
Another alternative you can use is CMAJ’s Bioethics for Clinicians Series (which is free) edited by the renowned utilitarian philosopher Peter Singer. The series also uses cases to illustrate important concepts in bioethics. Click here for a better organized collection of all the articles.
Buy or Borrow?
Personally, I would try to borrow a copy of the book from a friend or the library. There’s not much benefit to rereading the book again once you have gone through all the cases.
But if you do want to buy Doing Right, I would suggest ordering it from Amazon.com (US) since it’s a bit cheaper than on Amazon.ca – make sure you order well before your interview day to account for shipping.