Martyn Evans and Jane Macnaughton were part of an international group presenting a series of talks on aspects of the medical humanities to a group of clinicians and students in Helsinki on Friday 1st June. On a cool but sunny day an audience of over 50 gathered at the House of Sciences in Kirkkokatu near the harbour. The event was hosted by the Finnish Society for the Philosophy of Medicine and we were impressed by the diversity of the group and their enthusiasm for our field. The audience included neurologists, psychiatrists, general practitioners, ethicists and physicians, and there seemed to be a real thirst to engage with a new field that would enable a different kind of thinking than that driven by the clinical sciences.
The event was arranged because our group of 9 were in Helsinki to work on the final volume in the Radcliffe Medical Humanities Companions series (Volumes 1 and 2 are currently available through Radcliffe Publishing). Martyn opened the day with an overview of medical humanities, and we had contributions from Iona Heath (UK, President of the Royal College of General Practitioners), John Saunders (UK, past chair of the Royal College of Physicians Ethics Committee), Rolf Ahlzen (Sweden), Jill Gordon (University of Sydney), Carl-Edvard Rudebeck (Sweden), and Jane Macnaughton (UK, CMH).
Themes ranged from the relationship between medical humanities and clinical science to ‘why should physicians read’, and Jane ended the day summing up with a presentation that pointed to new directions for medical research, including an outline of Durham’s ‘Hearing the Voice’ project and CMH’s Smoking Interest Group. Our aim was to enthuse clinicians with a sense that medical humanities was a field that has the potential to offer them new ways to engage in research, and possibilities for re-invigorating their relationships with patients informed by deeper readings from works of literature or philosophical sources that might reignite a sense of wonder in embodied human nature.
It was a very exciting and encouraging start to our weekend of book writing!