Planning to do your elective in a resource poor country?
The BMA’s ethicist Julian Sheather asks you to consider the ethics
Medical electives are among the most rewarding parts of the undergraduate curriculum, and are certainly among the most eagerly anticipated. Many doctors look back at their elective as an early transformative experience, awakening deep sympathies with their host countries. Such experiences can last a lifetime, and some will even return to help later in life after careers have been realised and families have flown. Electives can also be rich learning experiences, giving students first hand experience of challenging global health issues. Students can work with patients who have diseases, or disease states, that they will never see at home. Working in demanding and unfamiliar places, often remote from the structure and hierarchy of medicine in the United Kingdom, can, if properly managed, increase independence and self reliance—critical professional and personal virtues. Given an increasingly globalised world and an increasingly multicultural patient population, the opportunity to work in cultures different from