• The Aspiring Medics

Oxbridge Medical Ethics Scenarios


It's likely that you will encounter an ethical scenario at one of your interviews. Just remember that there is not a clear-cut answer, rather they want you to consider different perspectives and come to a reasoned conclusion. Often, you can draw on the 4 pillars of medical ethics to frame your response: beneficence, non-maleficence, autonomy and justice.


These 5 scenarios will give you ideas on how to navigate ethics questions in a way that give your answers both breadth and depth.


  • Its advantages are most obviously seen in the treatment of disease, but where do you draw the line between this and non-therapeutic enhancement purposes?

  • How do you regulate the technology?

  • Editing out cruel mutations is an example of beneficence, however bringing in the principle of justice it is likely that only the rich will be able to afford such edits

  • We still don't know if gene editing humans will have long term deleterious effects - can be justify the risk if the benefits aren't guaranteed?


  • In terms of numbers, more people would benefit from the hip replacements. You can refer to the utilitarian school of thought and show how this would put hip replacements over heart transplants

  • Consider the cost-effectiveness of both, quality-adjusted life years (QALYs) is a tool used by clinicians to assess how cost-effective an intervention is. You could argue that the one with the greatest number of QALYs is the one to go for.

  • Consider the effect on their families as well, who will benefit more?


  • Emergency care should always be provided during a strike - non-maleficence

  • Doctors are also human beings and deserve respect and dignity just like other patients

  • Some argue strikes go against a doctor's responsibility to act in the best interest of their patients

  • If the conditions that doctors work in put their patients at risk, then arguably they are morally obliged to strike


  • Mainly a question of doctor-patient confidentiality and whether not breaching this would put others at risk

  • Since this disease is heritable, it affects future generations and not just the patient in question

  • The doctors may have to prepare to defend their decision in court

  • How much do the relatives' autonomy and right to disclosure balance the patient's autonomy and confidentiality?


  • Can argue that it respects people's autonomy especially if both parties (donor and recipient) consent to it

  • Likely that more kidneys are available

  • But there is an increased risk of financial exploitation to poor donors, there may also be post-operative harm caused

  • The risk of transmitting infections such as HIV is greater which ultimately causes more harm to the recipients