Consider the term ‘medical science’. Easy. For most of us it conjures laboratories, test-tubes, scientists in white coats, evidence-based research, miracle medical breakthroughs. Medical science trips off the tongue so naturally – it’s surely one word, not two. The bond between ‘medical’ and ‘science’ is super-glued. It’s solid and unbreakable. We’ve closed the gap between these words, left no cracks to fall through. Medical science: a term to lean on, a term to trust.
Now consider the term ‘medical humanities’. Not so easy. Or so I surmise from the confused look on people’s faces when I tell them that the medical humanities are my field of research. It’s as if the words ‘medical’ and ‘humanities’ are unrelated strangers who need to be coaxed from separate, distant rooms and forced together for an awkward conversation where neither can quite understand the other’s language or point of view. What on earth would they talk about? What would be the point? What’s the use of the medical humanities? Where’s the miracle medical breakthrough in that research?