Centre for the Humanities and Health. Kings College London.

“Science deals in the generic and art in the specific”[1]

I went to the launch of the new Centre for The Humanities and Health at Kings College London this evening.

I asked Professor Howard Brody, Director of the Institute for the Medical Humanities at the University of Texas what the centre could offer to a profession that has lost the ability to develop relationships with patients and students because of a loss of continuity. I pointed out the fragmentation of primary care, the effect of working time directives on hospital training and the lack of mentors, using the counter-example of apprenticeship shown in Kurosawa’s epic, Red Beard to show what a teaching relationship could achieve. Humanities, I said, had to be part of caring for real patients. He thanked me, but didn’t answer.

Mark Slouka recently argued in Harpers Magazine that the humanities are necessary precisely because they are political and dangerous.[2] The social determinants of health and patient experiences have more to do with health than the micromanagement of biological parameters. And if you grant, as I do that this micromanagement is also necessary, then it’s far more effectively done if you understand how your patients live and how they think. And you do this far more effictively with continuity of relationship.

Medical humanities must be political. And in the political situation we find ourselves they must be subversive and they must act to transform medicine –including the medical, nursing and paramedical professions into more patient centred professions.  I hope this is not an academic centre producing PHDs about Middlemarch, I hope it is far more dangerous than that.

“Medicine is a social science and politics is nothing more than medicine on a large scale”[3]

Most of the posts here are about continuity in some form or another…


[1] Eagleton, Terry Darwin won’t help. London Review of Books September 24th 2009

[2] Slouka, Mark. Dehumanized; When Math and Science rule the school September 2009 http://www.harpers.org/archive/2009/09/0082640

[3] Wirchow. Quoted in Sigerist, Henry. Medicine and Human Welfare 1941

One response to “Centre for the Humanities and Health. Kings College London.

  1. The medicine in society rough guide to cinema. (a work in progress) http://lawsonmedsoc.wikispaces.com/The+Medsoc+guide+to+Cinema

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