Thursday Review: “Medical Humanities: Some Uses and Problems”

It’s been said that according to TV, there are only two interesting professions: law enforcement and medicine. Police dramas, mysteries, procedurals, and courtroom shows are nearly limitless. On the other hand, medical shows ranging from melodrama to comedy to documentary are easy to come by. The commercial success and wide range of even fictional stories about medicine points to an important discussion about the intersection of patient care and the humanities.
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Thursday Review: “Suffering and the Goals of Medicine”

We have a consciously dualistic view of ourselves. The mind and the body are separate things. One is subjective, the other is objective. One is a source of psychological “suffering” and the other is a source of biomedical “pain”.

If this is true, how can healthcare professionals—specifically those in medical fields—have any responsibility to their patients as human beings, and not just as complicated biomedical machinery?

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Thursday Review: “Slowing Down Fast Thinking to Enhance Understanding”

Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky more or less invented what we now call Behavioral Economics. Tversky passed away in 1996, but Kahneman went on to win the Nobel Prize and his 2011 bestseller, Thinking, Fast and Slow, brought their work to the general public. The big question Kahneman continuously answers in the book is, “How is it possible that we can make decisions that aren’t in our best interest?”

Bringing fast and slow thinking into medicine, Edmund G. Howe describes how he took Kahneman’s ideas and used them to guide patients through difficult decisions in The Journal of Clinical Ethics.

In his article, Howe makes useful and sincere applications to medical ethics and patient care. Going through his work also makes me want to re-read Kahneman’s book.
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Thursday Review: “Physician Views on Practicing Professionalism in the Corporate Age”

In a previous Thursday Review focusing on Burnout, Deborah Lathrop1 emphasized the necessity for healthcare providers to have a space to to address any pain from hidden grief. Lathrop’s discussion of disenfranchised grief is sensible, considering the changes in medicine in the last 30 years.

The question, then, once we know the importance of acknowledging and mourning the changes is, “What next?”

Writing in Qualitative Health Research, Brian Castellani and Delese Wear have published a summary of 50 physicians’ thoughts on how to practice medicine in “the corporate age”. Castellani and Wear try to match the professional experiences of real physicians, theoretical underpinnings, and practical advice for current and future physicians. Their work ties together ethics, storytelling, and even clarifies and expands some of Lathrop’s work.
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