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Are you ready for your bioethics boards?

Although codes of ethics have circumscribed behavior in the learned professions through the centuries, the extraordinary interest in ethics taken by lay and professional alike over the past twenty-five years is unprecedented.

The age of the Ethicist is upon us, and the demand for qualified ethicists to staff ethics committees, to lead workshops, and to inform TV viewers when life begins appears to be insatiable. But who is a "qualified" ethicist?

Right now anyone who can regularly toss around words like beneficence and autonomy without embarrassment seems to pass muster. As the playing field becomes ever more crowded, though, a cry will be raised to impose certifiable standards in this fastest-growing cognitive specialty. Foremost of these, of course, will be a passing score on a board examination in ethics that will test candidates not only on the ethics of medical practice, but also on that larger moral fabric of which biomedical ethics is but one thread.

In the event that an American Board of Ethical Specialties asks me to formulate such an examination, I have prepared a few sample questions to test the readiness of physicians contemplating a career in medical ethics as well as those with more modest ambitions in the world of medical decisionmaking.

The question in this sample quiz are of the multiple choice type with only one correct answer, as illustrated by the following example:

The only way to get a perfect score on this ethics exmination is to:

(a) Study hard (b) Be very smart (c) Cheat

The correct answer is c.

Using only a No. 2 lead pencil, completely fill the circle next to the appropriate response.

1. Actions are right in proportion as they tend to promote happiness.

(a) J. S. Mill o (b) Spike Lee o (c) C. Everett Koop o

2. Do the right thing.

(a) Immanuel Kant o (b) AMA Principles of o Ethics (1980) (c) Spike Lee o

3. And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good.

(a) Just So Stories o (b) Old Testament o (c) Hastings Center Report o

4. Virtue is a mean between opposite vices.

(a) J. Edgar Hoover o (b) Hugh Heffner o (c) Aristotle o

5. A man's got to know his limitations.

(a) Daniel Callahan o (b) Sidney Callahan o (c) Harry Callahan o

6. Act as if the principle from which you act were to become, through your will, a universal law of nature.

(a) Categorical imperative o (b) Technological imperative o (c) Territorial imperative o

7. Tell the truth. That is the thing I have told everybody around here.

(a) Sisela Bok o (b) Richard M. Nixon o (c) The Blue Fairy o

8. Yes Sir, that's my baby!

(a) Baby Doe o (b) Baby Bunting o (c) Baby M o

9. Primum non [underscore].

(a) Sincere o (b) Nocere o (c) Cerumen o

10. Situation ethics:

(a) Joseph Fletcher o (b) John Fletcher o (c) Louise Fletcher o

11. While trees may have standing, animals have no rights.

(a) Will Rogers o (b) Willard Scott o (c) Willard Gaylin o

12. Gravest problem for hospital ethicist:

(a) Jehovah's Witnesses refuses o blood transfusion (b) Chief of orthopedics o has AIDS (c) Dead battery in beeper o

Perfect score--Congratulations! You may head your own think tank.

8-11 correct--Employment assured as night ethicist at a small university hospital.

3-7 correct--You qualify to push a gurney under close supervision.

Fewer than 3 correct--You qualify to tutor Ivan Boesky.

Answers: 1 (a), 2 (c), 3 (b), 4 (c), 5 (c), 6 (a), 7 (b), 8 (c), 9 (b), 10 (a), 11 (c), 12 (c).

Anthony Shaw is professor of surgery, UCLA School of Medicine, and chief of pediatric surgery, Los Angeles County-Olive View Medical Center, Sylmar, Calif. He takes his medical ethics quite seriously.
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Title Annotation:humorous test for ethicists
Author:Shaw, Anthony
Publication:The Hastings Center Report
Date:Jan 1, 1992
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