• Vol. 48 No. 7, 233–237
  • 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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