The coevolution of bioethics and the medical humanities with palliative medicine, 1967-1997

J Palliat Med. 1998 Summer;1(2):187-93. doi: 10.1089/jpm.1998.1.187.


The Department of Humanities that I chair at the Pennsylvania State University College of Medicine was the first such department ever established at any medical school. It opened in 1967. In that same year, St. Christopher's, the first modern hospice, opened in London. Merely a coincidence? I do not think so. The forces that propelled bioethics and the humanities into medical education were the same forces that called the modern hospice movement into being. Over the past three decades, both movements have evolved together, nourishing each other and challenging each other. This essay will sketch three phases in the coevolution of bioethics and the medical humanities on the one hand, and hospice and palliative medicine on the other. The first phase I will call the common matrix of concern. The second phase I will call the elaboration of the concept and practice of "whole person care." The third phase I will call the era of public policy and corporate medicine.