• Vol. 48 No. 7
  • 15 July 2019

The Medical Humanities: Reconnecting with the Soul of Medicine



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How The Humanities Are Integral to Medicine

The medical humanities are an interdisciplinary field
where concepts, content and methods from art, history
and literature are used to investigate the experience
of illness and to understand the professional identity
of healthcare providers.1 The humanities—or “human
sciences”—aim to increase self-awareness and improve
humanistic care.2 Humanism refers to professional
attitudes and actions that demonstrate an interest in
and respect for the patient.3 The humanistic practice of
medicine involves attentive communication, empathy
and compassion, and the humanities strongly support
the acquisition of these humanistic skills through critical
analysis and development of values. The humanities are
also distinct from biomedical ethics which is focused on
the practical resolution of clinical dilemmas. Nevertheless,
the humanities support ethics through philosophical
analysis, sociological and psychological contextualisation
as well as historical perspective.

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