The identity and the role of a new academic Association for Medical Humanities are examined
What's in a name? The question has preoccupied both ancient philosophers and modern corporations, albeit for conspicuously different reasons. Standing between them both historically and culturally. Jane Austen drily considered the question through Miss Caroline Bingley's suggested improvement to the ball which her brother proposed to host:"'...there is something insufferably tedious in the usual process of such a meeting. It would surely be much more rational if conversation instead of dancing were made the order of the day'.
"'Much more rational, my dear Caroline, I dare say, but it would not be near so much like a ball'." (1)
The inaugural meeting of the Association of Medical Humanities was held in Birmingham in February 2002, and a good deal of discussion on that enjoyable and productive day was in timehonoured tradition devoted to the association's proposed name. Notwithstanding the discouraging precedent of Miss Bingley's attempt at redefinition, the question arose as to how "medical humanities" would be--and should be--understood. The most contentious issue concerned the word "medical" which can be interpreted in two ways, either inclusively, covering all those matters relating to health, illness, disability, and health care, or exclusively, relating only to what doctors do. Although the former is what is intended--as all present at the inaugural meeting clearly agreed--those who are not closely involved frequently take the expression "medical humanities" to have the latter, exclusive, meaning; thus they view medical humanities as being of interest primarily, or even only, to doctors. The fact that no nurses were in attendanc e at the …