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Medicine and Humanities: Voicing Connections


Accepting as a given that the humanities disciplines are not product or “results” driven, this paper argues that the core of an interdisciplinary field of medicine and humanities, or medical humanities, is an interpretive enterprise that is not readily open to quantitative assessment. A more humanistically oriented medical practice can derive, however, from the process that produces new insights and works toward the development of a new, mutually shared, and humanizing language.

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  1. 1.

    N. Scheper-Hughes, Medicine and Humanities: Emerging Definitions, in Euthanasia Policy in the Netherlands. Townsend Center for the Humanities: Townsend Center Occasional Papers, 28: 38.

  2. 2.

    Ibid, 34.

  3. 3.


  4. 4.

    See, for example, D Callahan et al., On the Uses of the Humanities: Vision and Application (Hastings-on-Hudson, NY: Hastings Center Institute of Society, Ethics and the Life Sciences, 1984).

  5. 5.

    J Shapiro and L Rucker, “Can Poetry Make Better Doctors?”, Academic Medicine, 78 (10): 953–957.

  6. 6.

    “Adding a Dose of Fine Arts,” Los Angeles Times, 24 May 2003: A1.

  7. 7.

    R Kennedy, “Using Arts to Train Doctors' Eyes,” New York Times, 17 April 2006.

  8. 8.

    S Squier and AH Hawkins, “Medical Humanities and Cultural Studies: Lessons Learned from an NEH Institute,” Journal of Medical Humanities, 25 (4): 243–253.

  9. 9.


  10. 10.

    Office of the Vice-Chancellor for Research, University of California, Berkeley, Framing the Questions: New Visions From the Arts and Humanities at Berkeley (Berkeley, CA, 2000), 5–7.

  11. 11.

    Emerging Definitions, 38.

  12. 12.


  13. 13.


  14. 14.

    B Keizer, “Tales of Empathy,” Threepenny Review (Summer 2003).

  15. 15.

    Emerging Definitions, 36.

  16. 16.

    Ibid, 47.

  17. 17.

    J Groopman, “Dying Words,” The New Yorker (28 October 2002), pp. 62–70.

  18. 18.

    Emerging Definitions, 36–7.

  19. 19.

    Ibid, 37.

  20. 20.

    Ibid, 42.

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Correspondence to Christina M. Gillis.

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Gillis, C.M. Medicine and Humanities: Voicing Connections. J Med Humanit 29, 5–14 (2008).

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  • Medical humanities
  • Interdisciplinary studies
  • Humanistic language
  • Healthcare
  • Medical education
  • Clinic