The effect of deliberative process on the self-sacrificial decisions of utilitarian healthcare students


Background: The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted prosocial behavior as a professional healthcare core competency. Although medical students are expected to work in the best interests of their patients, in the pandemic context, there is a greater need for ethical attention to be paid to the way medical students deal with moral dilemmas that may conflict with their obligations. Methods: This study was conducted in the spring semester of 2019 on 271 students majoring in health professions: medicine, dentistry, and veterinary medicine. All participants provided informed consent and completed measures that assessed utilitarian moral views, cognitive reflections, cognitive reappraisal, and moral judgment. Results: The healthcare-affiliated students who scored higher on the instrumental harm subscale in the measurement of utilitarian moral views were more likely to endorse not only other-sacrificial actions but also self-sacrificial ones for the greater good in moral dilemma scenarios. In particular, those engaged in deliberative processes tended to make more self-sacrificial judgments. The mediation analysis also revealed that the effect of deliberative processes on self-sacrificial judgments was mediated by cognitive reappraisal. Conclusions: These findings suggested that cognitive reappraisal through deliberative processes is involved when the students with utilitarian inclination make prosocial decisions, that it is necessary to consider both moral views and emotional regulation when admitting candidates, and that moral education programs are needed in the healthcare field.

Publication Title

BMC Medical Ethics