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Abstract

The humanities have been defined as a group of academic subjects united by a commitment to studying aspects of the human condition and a qualitative approach that generally prevents a single paradigm from coming to define any discipline. In the medical humanities context, the most quickly growing area is the field of literature and medicine. The use of literature in bioethics education plays a number of well-recognized educational roles. Herein, we argue that the law is relatively overemphasized in bioethics education and that one heretofore ignored yet important role of the humanities is to serve as a counterbalance to the pernicious influence of legal hegemony in the field of bioethics. In the process, we consider the special circumstances surrounding the fields of philosophy and jurisprudence; we discuss the 1998 American Society for Bioethics and Humanities “Core Competencies” report; and we use examples (drawn from teaching materials employed at the University of South Florida College of Medicine and Nova Southeastern University’s Naples-based Physician Assistant Program) to contrast the law’s narrowness with the richness and ambiguity of the humanities.

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