About the medical humanities

About the medical humanities

The Medical Humanities (sometimes “health humanities”) is an interdisciplinary field that uses the methods of the arts and humanities to contextualise, complement, and critique biomedical accounts of human nature, health, and wellbeing. The Medical Humanities include the familiar research areas of medical ethics and law, as well as the history and philosophy of science and medicine, but they also include newer areas such as, the creative practices of therapeutic writing and the arts in healthcare; theological accounts of spiritual care and wellbeing; the literary analysis of medical narratives; and studies of the social, historical and cultural construction of disease, illness and disability. The reach of this inherently cross-, if not always interdisciplinary work, continues to expand but is united by a shared belief that, in conjunction with biomedical explanations of the human organism, medical research and practice should involve and require an understanding of the human experience of illness.

The Medical Humanities, as an area of research, teaching and social engagement, grew largely out of ethical concerns over the reductive biotechnological emphasis in professional perceptions and training first aired in the 1950s. It is now represented by established internationally recognised research centres (notably at UTMB Galveston, Durham, and London) and related networks, peer-reviewed journals, professional associations, conferences, and degree-schemes. With a number of  internationally recognised, leading centres for medical research, the Scottish universities and interested health practitioners have played a significant role in these developments, though research activity has tended to be rather localised. By drawing together leading academics and practitioners from across Scotland working in Medical Humanities, the MHRNS aims to encourage further innovative, collaborative research.