Future doctors: Your health in the hands of lying cheats?
Medical students at the University of Sydney invented patients, falsified records and even “interviewed” dead patients in a serious academic scandal which has shocked the respected medical school.
A clergy that buggers little boys and girls. Politicians that lie and cheat. Banks that screw their customers. Companies that wilfully price gouge. And now, medical students, your future doctors, go crooked like the rest of those in which we are supposed to have faith in their skills and integrity. The Hippocratic oath or Hypocritical oath is more fitting. What in hell has happened to our society?
Sydney University medical students invented patients for assignments
Despite proven widespread academic dishonesty in the school, the students, most of whom are now in the final year of their medical degrees, were given the chance to “reflect” on their actions and do another task if they admitted their dishonesty. The university acknowledged that three of those under investigation for misconduct graduated last year.
It is understood at least 70 students from a class of more than 200 were involved.
The university launched an audit of the students’ reports and patient details after it emerged that third-year students doing the compulsory integrated population medicine (IPM) program last year “fabricated patients” and “falsified reports”.
The audit was designed to ensure that the patients used in the assessments existed and were alive when the task was done.
As part of the investigation, students were told to come forward if their assignment “could potentially have included inaccuracies or omissions or if they had misrepresented the number of patient meetings”.
Students were told they would also have the opportunity to do a “remediation task” which would not have an impact on their final results.
It is understood the university was alerted to the deception when staff tried to contact a patient to thank them for taking part in the program. The patient’s daughter said the patient was dead.
The program is designed to help medical students understand what it is like to live with a chronic health condition, such as asthma, cancer, diabetes or heart disease and they are required to find a patient to monitor over a 12-month period.
As part of the assessment, students must meet their patient in person at least five times throughout the year.
“We hope having firsthand experience of the impact of chronic ill-health on people’s lives will make students better doctors, and advocates for improvements in health services,” the university’s information sheet for patient participants says.
In a statement to Fairfax Media, the university said some current students were found to have made simple errors and no further action was taken while others made minor breaches of the Academic Dishonesty and Plagiarism in Coursework Policy 2012.
“Where required, students were assigned further tasks in order to complete the unit of study and meet the Personal and Professional Development component of the course,” the statement said.
“At this stage there are no current students, identified either through the audit or who came forward voluntarily, whose conduct was assessed to have been a major breach of the university’s academic dishonesty policy and categorised as serious misconduct.”
In a letter to students in March this year, Professor David Cook, the head of the Sydney Medical Program, warned students that it was “never acceptable” to submit dishonest or plagiarised work.
Letter to students on academic dishonesty in IPM (PDF/198KB)
“It is never acceptable to falsify reports, in full or part, including details such as meeting dates and patient details,” he wrote.
“It is never acceptable to forge signatures and students who are found to have done so may also be referred to the NSW Police for investigation, as well as being deemed to have engaged in academic dishonesty.”
In another update to students on April 1, Professor Cook said it was “helpful” for students to remember that academic dishonesty means “seeking to obtain or obtaining academic advantage (including in the assessment or publication of work) by dishonest or unfair means or knowingly assisting another student to do so.”
He also detailed why students should “self-declare” their dishonesty, including allowing them to acknowledge their wrongdoing and to develop an “awareness and understanding of the importance of honesty”.
It was also about taking responsibility for their actions “in the context of their professional duties and privileges as a (soon to be) medical practitioner,” Professor Cook’s letter said.