“It hath left behind it so foul and filthy broad scars, that touched the lives of four persons”: Stories of Medical Malpractice in Elizabethan England

In the preface to his 1588 treatise on surgery, Elizabethan surgeon William Clowes declared to his reader that “mine intent is not to hold my tongue at abuses” (A prooued practise sig. A1r). Thus began a section in which he discussed several stories of medical malpractice.1 In one, he described a “pernicious pill” that had…

In and On the Clinic

All of my previous trips to our nearby hospital have been marked by blood and bruises. As an especially clumsy individual, I’m used to squeezing paper towels tightly around gashed fingers or pressing ice compresses to a purpling forehead, blinking with the unfocused eyes of someone definitively concussed. Accompanied by my wonderful partner, I am…

Humanizing Black Patients

Misconceptions and Fallacies on Race and Medical Treatment The Health Humanities is the study of the intersection of health and humanistic disciplines (such as philosophy, religion, literature)  fine arts, as well as social science research that gives insight to the human condition (such as history, anthropology, sociology, and cultural studies.)* The Health Humanities use methods…

Rice in Bowls

It was the mixed rice again. Four months had passed since the Japanese soldiers of the First Regiment of Imperial Guard first saw such staple in November 1886. Instead of shining white rice, their bowls held some yellowish rice with barley kernels. They heard that soldiers in the Second and Third Regiment had the same…

Please open with a vivid and compelling short story of a patient encounter

The textbooks that I used as a medical student in the 1990s were illustrated with photographs of real patients. I can vividly recall the images of three depicted patients, stripped naked, standing with their palms facing upwards, posed with their hands by their sides and feet shoulder width apart like Leonardo Da Vinci’s Vitruvian Man….

En Route

We are always en route.  No matter our destination, there is always the next stop, the shuffle of feet on and off the train, variably encased in autumnal suedes, daggered high-heels, beachy sandals, or light-up sneaks for the young and unruly. Leaving behind stubborn mud, fresh-scented grass stems, mulish sand, and crinkled bubble-gum wrappers—evidence of…

Coffee with a Colleague: Physician, Author, and Educator, Jay Baruch, MD

Sarah Berry // This interview series features educators, scholars, artists, and healthcare providers whose work is vital to the growth of the health humanities. On Thursday, May 12, I interviewed Dr. Jay Baruch about his forthcoming essay collection Tornado of Life (MIT Press, August 2022), as well as medicine, narrative, and the role of writing…

Grief and the Medical Humanities

Diana Novaceanu // The ultimate goal of all art is relief from suffering and the rising above it. (Gustav Mahler)  One sunny day, towards the end of March, I suffered the loss of someone very dear to me. It had not been unexpected; I had the privilege to say good-bye in person. Everything medically possible…

He says he’s never been to Costa Rica …

Dr Jac Saorsa, Artist-in-Residence// ‘I tell him all about Cyprus, and Lisbon, and Costa Rica … I tell him about the small town on the Caribbean coast called Puerto Viejo, where the jungle meets the sea with only a dirt road and a beach of pure black carbon sand in between … He says he’s…