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Ethics Education in Research Involving Human Beings in Undergraduate Medicine Curriculum in Brazil


  • Maria Rita Garbi Novaes,

  • Dirce Guilhem,

  • Elena Barragan,

  • Stewart Mennin

  • Conflict of interest statement: No conflicts declared

Address for correspondence: Maria Rita G. Novaes, SHIS- QI 09- conjunto 06- casa 14- Lago Sul, Brasília-DF, Brazil, Email:



The Brazilian national curriculum guidelines for undergraduate medicine courses inspired and influenced the groundwork for knowledge acquisition, skills development and the perception of ethical values in the context of professional conduct.


The evaluation of ethics education in research involving human beings in undergraduate medicine curriculum in Brazil, both in courses with active learning processes and in those with traditional lecture learning methodologies.


Curricula and teaching projects of 175 Brazilian medical schools were analyzed using a retrospective historical and descriptive exploratory cohort study. Thirty one medical schools were excluded from the study because of incomplete information or a refusal to participate. Active research for information from institutional sites and documents was guided by terms based on 69 DeCS/MeSH descriptors. Curriculum information was correlated with educational models of learning such as active learning methodologies, tutorial discussions with integrated curriculum into core modules, and traditional lecture learning methodologies for large classes organized by disciplines and reviewed by occurrence frequency of ethical themes and average hourly load per semester.


Ninety-five medical schools used traditional learning methodologies. The ten most frequent ethical themes were: 1 – ethics in research (26); 2 – ethical procedures and advanced technology (46); 3 – ethic-professional conduct (413). Over 80% of schools using active learning methodologies had between 50 and 100 hours of scheduled curriculum time devoted to ethical themes whereas more than 60% of traditional learning methodology schools devoted less than 50 hours in curriculum time to ethical themes.


The data indicates that medical schools that employ more active learning methodologies provide more attention and time to ethical themes than schools with traditional discipline-based methodologies. Given the importance of ethical issues in contemporary medical education, these findings are significant for curriculum change and modification plans in the future of Brazilian medical education.