Journal of Bioethical Inquiry

, Volume 13, Issue 1, pp 117–132 | Cite as

Guidelines for Teaching Cross-Cultural Clinical Ethics: Critiquing Ideology and Confronting Power in the Service of a Principles-Based Pedagogy

  • Fern BrungerEmail author
Original Research


This paper presents a pedagogical framework for teaching cross-cultural clinical ethics. The approach, offered at the intersection of anthropology and bioethics, is innovative in that it takes on the “social sciences versus bioethics” debate that has been ongoing in North America for three decades. The argument is made that this debate is flawed on both sides and, moreover, that the application of cross-cultural thinking to clinical ethics requires using the tools of the social sciences (such as the critique of the universality of the Euro-American construct of “autonomy”) within (rather than in opposition to) a principles-based framework for clinical ethics. This paper introduces the curriculum and provides guidelines for how to teach cross-cultural clinical ethics. The learning points that are introduced emphasize culture in its relation to power and underscore the importance of viewing both biomedicine and bioethics as culturally constructed.


Medical education Clinical ethics Cultural competency Critical bioethics 



The author wishes to acknowledge the support of colleagues Christopher Kaposy, Daryl Pullman, and Jennifer Flynn of the bioethics program at Memorial University, Newfoundland, Canada, as well as the assistance of Philmona Kebedom, a Master of Health Ethics student at Memorial University, who provided assistance with preparing this article for publication. The author has no financial or professional relationships which pose a competing interest. No financial support was necessary for this article.

Supplementary material

11673_2015_9679_MOESM1_ESM.doc (118 kb)
ESM 1 (DOC 118 kb)


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Division of Community Health and Humanities, Faculty of MedicineMemorial University, Health Sciences CentreSt. John’sCanada

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