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Remediation Program For Dentists

Submitted by Clark Cunningham on Tue, 04-20-2010
Long title
Remediation Program for Dentists Provides Data on Moral Development Important to All Professions
Cunningham, Clark D.
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The author is the W. Lee Burge Professor of Law & Ethics at the Georgia State University College of Law and Director of the National Institute for Teaching Ethics & Professionalism.
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Journal of the American College of Dentists
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United States
This article reviews Muriel Bebeau's previously published two-part report in the Journal of the American College of Dentists on the results of her remedial ethics course for dental professionals in Minnesota found to have violated the rules of professional conduct. The review concludes that her work should be of great interest to disciplines other than dentistry, not only because it describes an effective remediation program that could be adapted to other professions, but even more importantly because it provides significant evidence of the value of empirical research in moral psychology for both designing and assessing ethical education for professionals. Bebeau has been a pioneer in applying to professional ethics the Four Component Model (FCM) of moral behavior proposed by the developmental psychologist James Rest. Because the first step for each of the 41 professionals referred to Bebeau for remedial instruction during the 15 year period covered by her report was to complete an FCM-based diagnostic assessment to determine whether deficiencies in ethical competence could be identified, Bebeau was able to collect data of particular relevance in showing correlation between the ethical capacities defined by moral psychology and actual behavior found to violate professional ethics. Although a number of prior studies have reported a link between test scores for moral reasoning and actual performance, for those directly involved in professional education, development and regulation, the data presented by Bebeau is particularly accessible and persuasive. Especially helpful are Bebeau's detailed narratives that offer causal links between measured ethical capacities and the actual behavior of these professionals that led to their discipline. The correlation documented by Bebeau between low scores for moral reasoning and role concept (and in some cases for ethical sensitivity) and documented lapses in professional conduct certainly helps make the case for trying to develop educational interventions that could address the ethical capacities measured by such scores. Bebeau's report takes us one step further by demonstrating that an educational program designed along the lines of the FCM approach, such as used for these remediating dentists, can in fact produce measurable improvement.
Bebeau’s two-part report is available on this web site:
Also available are three reviews of her report – by a dental school dean, by administrators of the Minnesota Board of Dentistry, and by the director of a remediation program for physicians and other health care professionals:
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