Israeli medical students more 'forgiving' about cheating

Former dean of BGU's medical school: A student's attitudes toward cheating are mostly determined by their cultural and subcultural characteristics.

hebrew univ. 298  (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
hebrew univ. 298
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
Israeli medical students are less likely to regard copying homework, cheating on exams and giving answers to a classmate during an exam as "morally unacceptable" than American and other foreign medical students doing their course work in Israel. This according to a study by researchers at Ben-Gurion University's Health Sciences Faculty and Soroka University Medical Center in Beersheba and Hadassah University Medical Center on Jerusalem's Mount Scopus. The questionnaire was filled in by 141 first- and second-year medical students - Israelis as well as foreigners participating in BGU's international medical degree program. Prof. Shimon Glick, a leading medical ethicist and former dean of BGU's medical school, and colleagues found that a student's attitudes toward cheating are significantly determined by his or her cultural and subcultural characteristics, but no correlation was found between cheating and gender, age, where one's parents were born, army service or type of high school. Married students were less likely to approve of cheating, and the more religiously observant medical students are, the less likely they are to regard cheating as acceptable. Among Israeli students, there was a link between the view that the faculty did not treat them well and the position that cheating is morally acceptable. Of those surveyed, 70.5 percent of the foreign students and 53.7% of the Israeli medical students thought it unacceptable to get information about an exam from a student who already took the same test; almost 87% of the foreigners objected to giving help to a friend during a test, while only about 35% of the Israelis felt the same way. More than 95% of the former said it was wrong to copy home exercises that a friend had done, but only 12.5% of the Israelis objected to this behavior. Fully 95.6% of the foreigners and 92.7% of the Israelis thought it objectionable to copy from another student during an exam. While 93.3% of foreigners said it was wrong to make use of an exam that was stolen before students were tested on it, only 77.9% of the Israelis said this was unacceptable. Asked whether it was okay to use prohibited materials during exams, 95.6% of the foreigners and 94.8% of the Israelis said it wasn't. Copying a final paper was regarded as wrong by 86.7% of the foreigners and 84.2% of the Israelis. Reconstructing exam questions for the benefit of next-year students was regarded as wrong by 37.1% of the foreigners and only 1.1% of the Israelis. However, 95.6% of the foreigners were opposed to counterfeiting patients' lab test results (apparently to show their diagnosis was correct) compared to 99% of the Israelis; and 100% of the Israelis said it was wrong to report that a patient's lab test results were normal before they were completed, compared to only 93.3% of foreigners. Medical students who admitted they cheated in high school were more likely to regard cheating in medical school as morally acceptable. The more often they cheated in high school, the more likely the medical student was likely to claim that he or she would cheat if they were certain they would not be caught in the act. Glick and colleagues concluded that medical students should be exposed to ethical discussions of relevant issues, with moral dilemmas analyzed and culture differences dealt with to help improve their ethical behavior and their ethical practice in dealing with patients.