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Altruism in Indian medical students fast fading, says study

Altruism in Indian medical students fast fading, says study

Chennai: A latest Indian Journal of Medical Ethics study conducted recently reveals shocking facts about medical education concluding that as medical students moved on in their medical years, their acts of altruism lessened.

The lack of altruism among doctors has been attributed to their daily exposure to death, deprivation, penury and suffering on a daily basis. Altruistic tendencies, humanism says Vijayaprasad Gopichandran, Assistant Professor, Department of Community Medicine, ESIC College,  often get sidelined due to the emphasis on curriculum and lack of proper mentorship in medical education.

A cross-sectional study was conducted in a city-based medical college among its 224 students revealed that not even half indulge in altruistic acts like a donation. Students in the  17-23 age group with more than half being women were given questionnaires with a set of 20 situations to assess their helping tendencies.

The altruistic attitudes of the students were largely grouped into four categories on the basis of the factor analysis namely:

  • simple acts of altruism,
  • recognised acts of charity,
  • altruistic activities that put the self at risk
  • humanitarian acts.

Factor scores in this analysis, further led to a K-means cluster analysis, which then had the students divided into 3 groups, namely

  • simple altruists (43.3%),
  • risk-taking altruists (30.8%),
  • limited altruists (25.9%).

According to the ones who came across as altruistic 86 % attributed their behaviour to the teachings of their parents and 35% gave credit to the teachers, who acted as their role models, during college years. Interestingly, factors like religion, school, native place had no role to play in their altruistic tendencies.

It was further observed that younger students, males, those whose parents donated to charity, those whose friends organised charitable group activities, and those who had role models in college were much more likely to be simple altruists.

 According to Lead author Sanjai S, a final year student at ESIC Medical College and PGIMSR, KK Nagar, the decline in empathy is a result of increased workload, the influence of teachers pressed by “market forces” and their personal inabilities to deal with demands.

Professors admit that students when they enter and by the time they leave to go through distinctive changes. Altruism, generosity of spirit, empathy, high ethical standards and, love of learning vanish by the time they emerge as doctors. For Instance, Only a fractional 31% go out of their way to donate blood or help push a broken down vehicle.

Retired government doctor J Amalorpavanathan found the results of the study surprising. “Students may not be as exposed to the community as they were before but they still exposed to the uncertainty of life early on. They see death, deprivation, penury and suffering on a daily basis. It should make them more empathetic,” he told TOI, adding that the decline perhaps could be attributed to lack of proper mentorship in medical education.


You  can read the full study by clicking on the following link

S, Sanjai ; GOPICHANDRAN, Vijayaprasad . Selfless giving in medicine: a study of altruistic attitudes among medical students. Indian Journal of Medical Ethics, [S.l.], v. 0, n. -, p. , sep. 2017. ISSN 0975-5691. Avaialble at: <>. Date accessed: 16 Oct. 2017.: DOI: 10.20529/IJME.2017.082

Source: with inputs
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