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Debate: Should I stay or should I go?

Meet Tom Bradley, a Medical Student Scholar studying at the University of Leicester in 2020. This is an open debate about an important question that many healthcare professionals are grappling with at this point in time. Tom has posed the debate question to stimulate your thinking, so have a read of his example below and then join the debate by trying to answer the question. This could become a very common interview question and in the process, it will help you to learn about ethics and view a problem in the way that doctors would go about ethically problem-solving. Good luck and enjoy the debate! 

As a third-year medical student during the pandemic, you find yourself reflecting (as all good medic’s should), should it be me out there? Should I be on the frontline assisting our colleagues to be?  Or should I stay home, carry on studying, learning and relaxing in safety and let this crisis pass me by.

Probability dictates that as a fit and well 20-year-old, I will come out of the other side of this virus relatively unscathed, therefore should it not be my duty to volunteer in place of the returning NHS staff who’ve hung up their stethoscopes at far more risk than I am?

At this point in my training, I had spent 6 months in GP practices and hospitals, deemed competent in taking blood, managing a cardiac arrest and taking a reasonable history from most patients, skills that have the potential to ease the load of any overworked junior doctor. A time like this may also be the perfect time for me to hone those skills, which I have been trained for.

Despite this, I knew that I was still brand new to the craft and had more to learn than I could possibly have imagined. I’m human, and make mistakes often, relying on the F1’s to both recognise and rectify these. On placement, this is apart of the learning process and so it is accommodated for, however in a time of such national emergency, it didn’t seem fair to increase the burden of the junior doctors I’d been assigned to. I’m also a quantifiable risk factor for infection spread, both in the hospital and to my family back home.

Should I have stayed or should I have gone? The former could have left me better equipped to assist the next time the health service faces a challenge such as this, when the skills and knowledge I’d have are needed far more than those which I possessed back then. The latter could have put myself and my family in harm’s way, but made a true difference to the lives of both the patients I served and the colleagues I served with.

So, should I have stayed or should I have gone?

Post your thoughts below! It does not matter if you are right or wrong; by participating in the learning process, you will have a greater chance of understanding how ethical principles can be applied.

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