Skip to main content
Log in

Monash Bioethics Review - Call for Papers: Medical Humanities in the 21st Century: their meaning, value, and place in academic and societal discussion

Special issue CfP: Medical Humanities in the 21st Century: their meaning, value, and place in academic and societal discussion

Editor: Alberto Giubilini (University of Oxford)

Medical Humanities is a relatively recent area of academic inquiry. It focuses on dimensions of our approach to medicine, health, and health institutions that are not captured by a medical-scientific approach. As an academic discipline, it originated in the 1960s in the US, mostly thanks to the Society for Health and Human Values and the work of scholars like medical doctor and philosopher Edmund Pellegrino. Its aim was to reform medical education by giving proper recognition to human values and cultures in a field until then dominated by a mechanicistic approach to medicine (Fox 1985). Since then, questions around our relationship with medicine and healthcare that require a Humanities-focused approach have become increasingly more salient in academic and in societal discussion

Why some of us trust health institutions and some do not, why some of us accept certain types of medicines and reject others, what counts as medicine and as health for different people are examples of questions that a Medical Humanities approach can help answer. They are questions about the different values, histories, and practices around health and medicine that escape the scientific approach. In fact, science and medicine themselves are embedded in such values, histories, and practices. Their proper place and function in society can only be grasped from a perspective that places the complexity of the human being at the centre.

Disciplines such as philosophy, theology, history, psychology, anthropology, arts, as well as their interactions, can help us understand how different historical, cultural, and personal backgrounds shape the way we conceptualize and value medicine and health.

Within academic institutions, the Medical Humanities also represent one of the most promising but also more challenging experiments in interdisciplinary and multidisciplinary work. Both types of work are largely incentivized and praised in academia and by academic funders. However, their exact nature and methodologies are very much ‘work in progress’, also within the Medical Humanities.

This special issue of the Monash Bioethics Review aims to shed light on the meaning, value, methodologies, and place of the Medical Humanities both within academic institutions and in society at large. In both contexts, the Medical Humanities approach can inform discussion about health and medicine and facilitate mutual understanding, meaningful health communication, and respectful policies, taking into account the complexities of human perspectives. Questions it will aim to address include, but are not limited to:

  1. What is the meaning and value of the Medical Humanities, as an academic discipline and as a more general approach to medicine and health? 
  2. How can your own specific discipline contribute to reflecting on medicine or healthcare? Is there any particular example of this, e.g. methodology, concepts, or case studies?
  3. What is the relationship between the Medical Humanities and the Medical Sciences? Is one ‘parasitical’ upon the other, can they integrate, or are they alternative and rival approaches to health and medicine?
  4. How does the role of the Medical Humanities change with the introduction of technologies such artificial intelligence or genome editing in healthcare, medicine, and the biosciences?
  5. Can the Medical Humanities help us better understand the ‘public’ dimension of public health ethics and policy, for instance who counts as the relevant ‘public’ and the relationship between the public and individuals’ health
  6. How can specific disciplines within the Medical Humanities contribute to a broader understanding of health and medicine using their own specific methodologies?
  7. How can interdisciplinarity and multidisciplinarity be carried out within the Medical Humanities, and between the Medical Humanities and the Sciences?

Submissions are welcome from all academic disciplines within the Medical Humanities broadly understood (e.g., philosophy, theology, history, social and political sciences, anthropology, ), or indeed making a case for why certain disciplines should (or should not) be included.

The deadline for manuscript submissions is Dec 31, 2024. Blinded manuscripts of up to 10,000 words should be submitted via


Fox, D.M. Who we are: The political origins of the medical humanities. Theoretical Medicine and Bioethic 6, 327–341 (1985)