Developing an Engaging Approach

Over the last decade, Dr. Douglas Diekema, Treuman Katz Center for Pediatric Bioethics director of education and bioethics faculty member, has been a leader nationally in creating educational materials for teaching medical ethics. When the center was founded in 2005, there were not many resources for teaching ethics in pediatrics – at least nothing comprehensive or that could be easily adapted for teaching.

This led Diekema to create and publish a pediatric residency ethics curriculum in 1997 to train medical students and residents. Seventeen years later, the American Board of Pediatrics (ABP) now requires that programs for pediatric residents include “structured curriculum in medical ethics that addresses the ethical principles of medical practice and the ethical aspects of a physician’s relationship to patients, other physicians and society.” To remedy the paucity of resources, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) Section on Bioethics has begun to publish online modules in bioethics. Diekema authored one of the modules and serves as one of the three editors who oversee the project. He is also a contributing author to the AAP Section on Bioethics’ case-based online modules for training residents and fellows.

As a member of the Ethics Committee of the ABP, he helps maintain the annotated bibliography of journal references, book chapters and online resources on the ABP website. He has also authored and contributed to policy statements and guidelines on far-ranging topics for professional organizations such as the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. He has authored more than 150 published articles and book chapters in medical ethics and pediatric emergency medicine. Many of his publications attempt to distill complex ethical issues into a clinically useful approach.

In 2011, he and two other editors published Clinical Ethics in Pediatrics: A Case-Based Textbook. Each chapter begins with a case to ground the ethical issues and concepts in real-life examples from the clinical realm. Topics range from issues related to confidentiality, end-of-life care, new technologies and professionalism, including boundary issues, conflicts of interests and relationships with industry. The textbook provides a comprehensive introductory text on clinical ethics for healthcare providers who take care of children and a teaching resource for those who teach ethics to medical students, residents and others.

“While medical students who have not seen many patients might struggle some with the relevance of bioethics, residents get it, they realize it’s a part of medicine. Bringing students and residents to that realization involves teaching bioethics in a way that is less philosophical and more practical, with ethical principles being grounded in real-life cases.”

Dr. Doug Diekema

Ultimate Goal

To bring clinical ethics as it relates to pediatrics to a wider audience and translate it for the clinician.


  • Mark Mercurio, Yale University School of Medicine
  • Mary B. Adam, University of Arizona