Abstract Background Most medical schools in Japan have incorporated mandatory courses on medical ethics. To this date, however, there is no established means of evaluating medical ethics education in Japan. This study looks 1) To develop a brief, objective method of evaluation for moral sensitivity and reasoning; 2) To conduct a test battery for the PIT and the DIT on medical students who are either currently in school or who have recently graduated (residents); 3) To investigate changes in moral sensitivity and reasoning between school years among medical students and residents. Methods Questionnaire survey: Two questionnaires were employed, the Problem Identification Test (PIT) for evaluation of moral sensitivity and a portion of the Defining Issues Test (DIT) for moral reasoning. Subjects consisted of 559 medical school students and 272 residents who recently graduated from the same medical school located in an urban area of Japan. Results PIT results showed an increase in moral sensitivity in 4th and 5th year students followed by a decrease in 6th year students and in residents. No change in moral development stage was observed. However, DIT results described a gradual rising shift in moral decision-making concerning euthanasia between school years. No valid correlation was observed between PIT and DIT questionnaires. Conclusion This study's questionnaire survey, which incorporates both PIT and DIT, could be used as a brief and objective means of evaluating medical students' moral sensitivity and reasoning in Japan.