Contesting certainties and changing paradigms for young professionals: Establishing medical ethics curricula in Pakistan

Dr Sarosh Saleem1, Dr Fajar Raza2

1Shalamar Medical & Dental College, Lahore, Pakistan, 2Shalamar Medical & Dental College, Lahore, Pakistan

The pressing need for familiarity with the ethical dimensions of health care is acknowledged worldwide. United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) made ethics of science and technology, one of its five priority areas. In Pakistan, medical ethics education is still in its infancy but a few efforts are pushing towards a slow but positive change in paradigms. While ethics was previously taught passively, through doctor-patient observation, a few training programs in Ethics (mostly non-diploma) have been introduced for clinicians and researchers. Over the past decade, research ethics committees have also been established in many healthcare institutes. However, these programs have not kept pace with the growing need of bioethics training in Pakistan. Pakistan Medical and Dental Council is the authority on undergraduate medical curriculum. It has advised that Bioethics be taught to medical students but has not made it a mandatory subject. Hence, there still remains a dearth of trained professionals and organized trainings, particularly for undergraduate students.

Pakistan has a unique social, political and cultural context and interpreting and implementing core ethical values within this local context, is a big challenge. It is imperative that the curricula and protocols be tailored according to the local sociocultural milieu. Recently, a Bioethics Department has been established at Shalamar Medical and Dental College, Lahore-Pakistan. This is the only department in Pakistan that has adapted the core curriculum of UNESCO International Network of Bioethics, for undergraduate training of nursing and medical students. Our goal is to develop graduates who are not just clinically sound, but are compassionate, morally and culturally sensitive, and who will create an environment that enhances the experiences of the patients and their families. We hope that this initiative would serve as the first step of a long journey towards creating leaders in the field of ethical professionalism.


Dr. Sarosh Saleem is a physician trained in Pediatrics and Bioethics. She is the founding Head of Bioethics Department at Shalamar Medical & Dental College, Lahore Pakistan. This is the only department in Pakistan dedicated to undergraduate and postgraduate training of clinicians. Dr. Saleem did Masters in Bioethics (with distinction) from The Aga Khan University, Karachi-Pakistan in 2010. While working as a Specialist and Incharge of Pediatric Emergency Department, Dr. Saleem established a Hospital Ethics Committee at The Indus Hospital, Karachi-Pakistan. Later she successfully completed a Fellowship in Pediatric Bioethics from Children’s Mercy Hospital, Kansas City, MO-USA in 2017. She returned to Pakistan to establish the field of Bioethics in healthcare sector in Pakistan. Her areas of interest are End of life decision-making, socio-cultural and spiritual influences on clinical decision-making, moral distress and research ethics in developing countries. Dr. Saleem has attended and presented at many national and international forums, including Pediatric Academic Societies Conference (2016 SF-USA), American Society of Bioethics and Humanities (2016-KC, MO-USA), Medicine and Religion Conference 2016 (TX-USA). She has successfully conducted several workshops and conferences of Bioethics with participation from international speakers, in Pakistan.

Dr.Fajar Raza graduated from Aga Khan University, Karachi in 2016. She is currently working as a teaching assistant in the Department of Medical Education at Shalamar Medical and Dental College (SMDC), Lahore.She also has an avid interest in medical ethics education and is a member of the Bioethics Unit Committee at SMDC. As part of the Department of Medical Education, she has been collaborating with the Bioethics Department at SMDC to develop training sessions for healthcare professionals.

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