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Year : 2018  |  Volume : 19  |  Issue : 3  |  Page : 116  

Should the humanities be incorporated in a doctor's education?

Heart Hospital, Hamad Medical Corporation, Doha, Qatar

Date of Web Publication18-Mar-2019

Correspondence Address:
Rachel Hajar
Heart Hospital, Hamad Medical Corporation, Doha
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None


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How to cite this article:
Hajar R. Should the humanities be incorporated in a doctor's education?. Heart Views 2018;19:116

How to cite this URL:
Hajar R. Should the humanities be incorporated in a doctor's education?. Heart Views [serial online] 2018 [cited 2023 Nov 30];19:116. Available from: https://www.heartviews.org/text.asp?2018/19/3/116/254346

Is medicine a science or art? This question has preoccupied physicians for thousands of years and debate on the topic is still ongoing. Medicine is sometimes considered a science, sometimes an art, and sometimes both.

Over the past 30 years, emphasis on the education and training of doctors has been scientific and that a wide division exists between science and the arts, like two cultures alien to one another; that scientists and artists understand and think differently.

It is however, essential, that doctors are thoroughly trained in diagnostics and therapeutics – in science. Patients expect to meet a doctor with these skills. The study of disease requires the aid of science. It is the practice of medicine that is an art.

There is a growing acceptance that the education and training of a doctor should combine science and the humanities so that a shift is occurring in the teaching of medicine. Nowadays, emphasis is in treating the whole sick person, not just the disease alone. There is growing acceptance that an exposure to the humanities helps physicians become more empathetic, that is, equipped with the ability to relate to and communicate with a suffering patient or whose disease is not amenable to cure. Sometimes we encounter patients whose disease is not curable and such patients feel a sense of worthlessness, of being ignored, and of being beyond help. Such patients need special treatment. It is felt that physicians with exposure to the humanities – literature (reading novels, stories, plays, and poetry), music, the visual arts such as painting and philosophy – become more compassionate and understanding of patient's predicament. They see that the patient is complex – with psychological, social, cultural, and ethical dimension.

If we want to continue considering the practice of medicine as an art based on scientific knowledge, then humanities should continue be integrated in a doctors' education and training. With the modern advancement of science and technology however, as well as the expansion of robots and computers in medicine, the art part of medicine will undoubtedly be diminished but still patients will require empathy and from their physicians. So, incorporating the humanities in the training of a doctor is essential if we are to produce doctors with an understanding of the human condition, that is doctors who can understand a patient's suffering.

Long ago, Hippocrates (460 BC – 370 BC) stated “ Wherever the art of medicine is loved, there is also a love of humanity.”


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