IPSL’s Medical Volunteering Ethics Policy:


In the international education, service-learning and volunteering fields there is

much discussion around whether or not medical service and volunteering can be

ethical. Students and volunteers will find that many reputable western international

education organizations will promote standards that severely limit activities when it

comes to medical service and volunteering. IPSL respects these standards and

encourages their students to take note of the current ethical standards and



The highest priority for IPSL when placing students in any service setting –

including medical settings - is safety and security. Immediately after that priority is

IPSL’s commitment to acknowledging and respecting the needs, desires, and wishes

of the local community and the local organizations and individuals with whom the

students are serving. IPSL works diligently to promote equity and mutually

beneficial partnerships in all of our partnerships. Therefore, IPSL encourages

students to engage in this important conversation around what is ethical in medical

service and volunteering.


Students are responsible for keeping the following in mind when engaging in

medical service and volunteering:


• Students must always keep the welfare of the patient foremost in mind, not

the perceived opportunity for proving yourself. Recognizing patient

autonomy is one of the core values of medical ethics; it is particularly

important to honor in communities with limited resources, where all patients

must be given the choice whether or not to have trainees involved in their



• Every act of service involves the building of a cultural bridge. Students

should bring knowledge of the history and culture of the community they will

serve, respect for cultural differences, a listening and learning attitude, and

behaviors that will enable ethical and effective service. Health care

professionals in the country being served will likely have a deep

understanding of local health care issues, resources and challenges. Be

sensitive to the concerns of the local health care team and seek to understand

the perspective of the patients you are serving. Recognize and respect

divergent diagnostic and treatment paradigms.


• It is appropriate for students to provide preventive health education and to

support the health care team by assisting in the provision of health treatment

after receiving adequate instruction. However, students should never engage

in any unsupervised activity that is considered the practice of medicine.

IPSL is responsible for adequately addressing the following in order to provide

ethical medical service placements for their students. IPSL will ensure that:


• The local community’s needs, desires, wishes, and voice and heard, respected

and adhered to by all IPSL staff and students.


• The burden to the host community and organization is as minimized as

possible and that there is no instance of global health training that benefits

the trainee at the cost of the host.


• The local community, local organization, and individuals the students are

interacting with are aware of the level of training and experience of each

student so that appropriate activities are assigned and patient care and

community well-being is not compromised.


• All IPSL staff, students and partners are aware and respectful of the

differences in norms of professionalism (Local and Sending), Standards of

Practice (Local and Sending) and Diagnostic and Treatment Paradigms.


• As an organization IPSL and IPSL students are engaging with existing

healthcare and public health organizations and are not ignoring, displacing,

disregarding or circumventing those organizations and professionals by

providing experiences outside of those systems.


• IPSL Students are educated to understand the local culture that influences

the healthcare and public health of the community and that students are

prepared to function professionally and interact appropriately with local

practitioners and community members.