Sunday, June 3, 2012

Ethics in School

"If I did that, I'd get expelled." That's what I thought when I encountered another school's material appearing on one of our assignments...then on another...and another. Maybe there's something I don't know. Perhaps both institutions acquired the questions from a centralized bank that they pay a subscription to. Perhaps universities have an open sharing policy and allow others to use the material they create without acknowledgement, but I have my doubts.

During the muscle and bones course we are taking, we have small group discussions in which we create differential diagnoses, discuss pathophysiology, workup, and disease progression. Usually the only tool we are given is the internet and we are 'encouraged' to use medical databases like Up to Date and Emedicine along with the enormous texts of Robbins and Cotran Pathology and Harrison's Internal Medicine.  Usually, the information progression goes like this: wikipedia, then google, next Robbins, back to wikipedia (for clarification of issues), and maybe for a few very brave, ambitious souls, Harrison's.

This part of the curriculum is in place so that we can rely on a group problem solving system. There is nothing to turn in, the only points are from the quiz in lecture the next day which incentivizes us to understand the material. It is designed to be too much for one person to do alone. One of my classmates pointed out to me that he found our case...on another school's website. Worse than that, it is word for word. Who knows who stole from who. Neither site gave credit to the other. I can understand them not acknowledging where they got it. After all, wouldn't want to spoil the answers, would we? Here is what our case was:

An otherwise healthy 44-year-old man with no prior medical history has had increasing back pain and right hip pain for the past decade. The pain is worse at the end of the day. On physical examination he has bony enlargement of the distal interphalangeal joints. A radiograph of the spine reveals the presence of prominent osteophytes involving the vertebral bodies. There is sclerosis with narrowing of the joint space at the right acetabulum seen on a radiograph of the pelvis. Which of the following diseases is he most likely to have?

Which you can also find on University of Utah's medical school site here. The next day, a different professor and different set of cases did the same thing from the Medical University of South Carolina here

Marianne Jennings thoughts are:

"Enforcement is to any organization what integrity is to us individually. We hold fast to our ethical standards because of our integrity. An organization is able to hold fast to its ethical standards only if it enforces them absolutely, unequivocally, and in an egalitarian fashion... After being held to rigorous standards, they witnessed a leader doing something stunningly violative of clear standards. Dean Baker’s apology many not be enough if the culture and standards of the University are to hold firm."

1 comment:

  1. I've seen it vary by professor here. Some openly admit they got everthing in their lecture from google, and others are so careful about copyright law that they post no pictures but their own. At times, it does seem like a double standard, and other issues that I won't go into sometimes make me wonder how much the administration cares about honesty.