Medical humanities or humanities in medicine? There is a difference between these two. First is a concept, and the second is a growing academic discipline.
Humanities in Medicine
Art and science were once indistinguishable. Specialization progressed greatly and science, scientific medicine and the arts are now cultural domains with fascinating interrelationships and multiple interfaces. Most importantly, medicine,as always, has a humanistic core. It is a clich� that one needs humanities to understand the human condition. The importance of the ‘broader view’ increases further as the interest of society in medicine, and its scrutiny of medicine and its practitioners, increase.
Philosopher Martyn Evans defined medical humanities as a discipline concerned with recording and interpreting the human experience of medicine. Presently, the main areas of interest of medical humanities are:
Medical education. There is an ongoing discussion to define the desirable level of input of humanities into medical education.
Patient-doctor contact. Humanities are a vehicle to reflect on human experience, on empathy, and to deepen the study patient-doctor communication. Particularly interesting is the study of narratives, time-based accounts of life, sickness and healing, which go deeper than routine history-taking.
Self development of a doctor. The study of the humanities provides space for reflection.
Poetry and literature create shared experience, which can be discussed and reflected upon. Creative writing or so-called reflective writing extends this further.
Healing environment. The arts can help to create environment conducive to healing, in hospitals, and in the community. Using the arts as forms of complementary therapy is also an option in several clinical disciplines.