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Medical humanities and the on-going search for reliability, authenticity and humility
  1. Deborah Kirklin
  1. Correspondence to Dr Deborah Kirklin, UCL Division of Medical Education, Whittington Campus, Highgate Hill, London N19 5LW, UK; d.kirklin{at}

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Sometimes editors plan themed issues, sometimes they just happen. With this issue it's a little bit of both. A core of five papers (four companion, one unrelated) together set out to challenge some of the most fundamental premises on which medical humanities has established itself over the last few decades.

Starting with a paper by Johanna Shapiro, and moving on to papers by Angela Woods, Estelle Noonan and Claire Hooker, Paul Macneill, and John Harley Warner, our authors are refreshingly forthright, and certainly don't pull any punches.

Shapiro begins by suggesting that narrative medicine may be in danger of losing its way. She acknowledges the contribution of scholars in using theories of textual analysis to develop a “more nuanced and multifaceted appreciation” of patient narratives, but goes on to suggest that doing so risks “the unintended effect of de-legitimising the patient's voice because of concerns regarding its trustworthiness”.

The irony inherent in her conclusion will not be lost on those working within the field. After all, one of the primary motivations behind the emergence of medical humanities was a growing recognition of the …

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  • Competing interests None.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; not externally peer reviewed.