Repository logo

Accommodation of religious and cultural differences in medical school training



Journal Title

Journal ISSN

Volume Title




Degree Level



As with many other disciplines, the study of medicine is being influenced by the change in the cultural make-up of our country. On occasion, conflicts may develop between the personal beliefs of medical students and the training they must undertake in order to become competent and caring physicians. What are the implications for medical school training in terms of the increasing diversity of the individuals applying to, and being accepted into, medical schools across this country? How much should we allow the personal beliefs and values of physicians-in-training to modify the medical education experience as it currently exists? Do we need to accommodate these individual student differences (religious and cultural) when designing and modifying the medical school curriculum? This thesis looks at the requirement for accommodation (as established in human rights legislation) and the rights of individuals entering into medical school training (as guaranteed by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms) and attempts to balance these individual rights against the goal of a medical school to develop a generic physician who is prepared, at completion of medical school training, to enter into many different post-graduate training programs. Medical school training involves a number of different types of learning including: knowledge acquisition, procedural competence, and the ability to interact in an intimate, yet wholly professional, manner with complete strangers. Current accreditation requirements demand that each medical student achieves a requisite level of knowledge, and the ability to perform certain physical examinations and associated procedures, by the completion of medical school training. Three distinct examples of possible requests for accommodation are examined during this thesis in order to determine if, and when, accommodation is reasonable and achievable. Although it is possible to allow some degree of modification of the medical school training process in order to accommodate religious or cultural beliefs of particular students, this accommodation is currently not possible if bona fide educational requirements are undermined during this accommodation or if accommodation of students would require undue hardship on the part of the particular medical school, staff or other students involved in the training process. Creating a standard process whereby students can request a modification of their involvement in the medical school curriculum (in order to accommodate religious or cultural differences) will facilitate unbiased and reasonable decision-making. This will allow students and faculty to have reasonable expectations about the ability of each individual to be successfully integrated into the medical school training program. It would also be useful and responsible to make it clear to students applying to be admitted to medical school where the limits are with respect to what degree of modification of medical school training is possible. The knowledge and clinical abilities that a student will be expected to master, within a Canadian medical school curriculum, must be consistent with the expectation of non-discrimination, as identified by provincial and national human rights legislation, and with the rights and freedoms as guaranteed by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.



Accommodation of religious and cultural differences, medical school training, human rights legislation, Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms



Master of Laws (LL.M.)






Part Of