Intro to Medicine and Society


Course Title

Intro to Medicine and Society

Course Description

This section of Readings in Medicine and Society will discuss medical ethics through a creative lens. Course content includes plays, a podcast, and more. The spine of the semester is Anne Fadiman’s landmark book of medical anthropology and literary journalism The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down. This discussion-based course interrogates stubborn issues one faces as clinicians and as patients, preparing you to deal with them robustly and productively. Language has power. Medical terms may be sexist, outdated, insensitive and plain confusing to doctors and patients. In a recent Guardian essay, Justine van der Leun observed that women are have an “incompetent cervix” or “blighted ovum,” while men suffer from “premature ejaculation” and “erectile dysfunction,” not “inadequate testicles” and “futile penis.” Of course, lexicons change as medicine evolves. How can it make a statistical difference to refer to “cardiac impairment” or “cardiac insufficiency syndrome” instead of “heart failure?” What motivated a federal ruling to change “mental retardation” to “intellectual disability?” Does refraining from the adjective “morbidly” obese help patients lose weight? In 2001, Dr. Ken Kizer introduced the term “never event” to refer to particularly shocking medical errors—such as wrong-site surgery—but, of course, sometimes do happen. For liability purposes, medical mistakes can be deemed “adverse events” or “hospital-acquired conditions.” Some even wonder if the word “patient” is patriarchal, implying passivity on the part of the...client? Furthermore, narrative is an invalue tool for diagnosis. Medical write-ups, usually 3-5 pages, have detailed written components about the source of information, the patient’s chief “complaint” and its history, the patient’s medical/family/social history, review of symptoms, physical exams, lab work, assessment/plan. These words inform life-or-death decisions.

Course Level

Instructor Name

Course Topics

Disciplinary Perspectives

Geographic Location

Houston, TX

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Intro to Medicine and Society