BACKGROUND: A different ethos with respect to the perception of medical ethics prevails in societies in transition such as those in the Arabian Peninsula, which makes it difficult to apply international principles of bioethics in medical practice. This study aimed to develop and psychometrically test an instrument that measures physicians' awareness of bioethics and medical law and their attitudes towards the practice of medical ethics. Additionally, it examined physician correlates influencing the awareness of bioethics.
METHODS: Following a rigorous review of relevant literature by a panel of experts, a 13-item instrument, the Omani physicians' bioethics and medical law awareness (OBMLA) questionnaire was developed with the aim of assessing physicians' awareness of bioethics and medical law. The study tool's construct validity and internal consistency reliability were examined by exploratory factor analysis (EFA) and Cronbach's alpha. In a cross-sectional study, the questionnaire was distributed among a random sample of 200 physicians at a tertiary hospital in Muscat, Oman. Participant characteristics that may influence awareness of bioethics and medical law were explored.
RESULTS: The EFA of the OBMLA questionnaire resulted in three well-loading factors: (1) Physicians' bioethics practice subscale (2) incentive related bioethics subscale and (3) medical law awareness subscale. Internal consistency reliability ranged between Cronbach's α: 0.73-0.8. Of the total 200 participants, 52% reported that teaching medical ethics during medical school was inadequate. The overall mean (standard deviation, SD) of the bioethics awareness score and Omani medical law awareness were 27.6 (3.5) and 10.1 (2.1) respectively. The majority of physicians (73%) reported that they frequently encountered ethical dilemmas in their practice and 24.5% endorsed the view that unethical decisions tended to occur in their practice.
CONCLUSION: The study provides an insight into the practice of bioethics, and the awareness of bioethics and medical law among physicians in a teaching hospital in Oman. The OBMLA questionnaire appears to be a valid and reliable tool to assess a physician's awareness of bioethics and medical law. In this preliminary study, it appears that participants have suboptimal scores on the indices which measure practice and awareness of bioethics and medical law.
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