The lack of palliative medicine (PM) education has been identified as a barrier to the development of the discipline. A number of international institutions have called for its implementation within undergraduate medical curricula.
The objectives are to describe the situation of undergraduate PM education in Europe and to propose a scoring system to evaluate its status.
This descriptive study was conducted with data provided by key experts from countries of the World Health Organization European Region (n = 53). A numerical scoring system was developed through consensus techniques.
Forty-three countries (81%) provided the requested information. In 13 countries (30%), a PM course is taught in all medical schools, being compulsory in six of them (14%). In 15 countries (35%), PM is taught in at least one university. In 14 countries (33%), PM is not taught within medical curricula. A full professor of PM was identified in 40% of countries. Three indicators were developed to construct a scale (rank 0-100) of educational development: 1) proportion of medical schools that teach PM (weight = 32%); 2) proportion of medical schools that offer PM as a compulsory subject (weight = 40%); 3) total number of PM professors (weight = 28%). The highest level of PM educational development was found in Israel, Norway, the U.K., Belgium, France, Austria, Germany, and Ireland.
PM is taught in a substantial number of undergraduate medical programs at European universities, and a qualified teaching structure is emerging; however, there is a wide variation in the level of PM educational development between individual countries.