You don't need to be signed in to read BMJ Blogs, but you can register here to receive updates about other BMJ products and services via our site.


Ayesha Ahmad: St. Panteleimon: Patron Saint of Physicians

25 May, 13 | by Ayesha Ahmad

A few weeks ago, in the city of Belgrade, I sat alongside some of the most eminent of ethicists in current biomedical debate, and discussed the morals of enhancing humans.

In light of our scientific and technological development of the means to cause our own final destruction, for our survival, it was argued, we need to enhance our morality, through therapeutic interventions that lead to morally-enhanced motives. Otherwise, we will just become what we become. By virtue of the nature of such therapeutic interventions, subsequently, there will no longer be any need for the reflections of whom we are.

So, too, will the narratives of our writers, our poets, our artists be executed and belong only to a death that cannot speak of our existential disclosures.


Ayesha Ahmad: CFP & Workshop Announcement: Illness, Narrative, and Phenomenology

23 May, 13 | by Ayesha Ahmad




Tuesday 9 July 2013

Faculty of Arts & Institute for Advanced Studies

University of Bristol

Keynote speaker: Prof Brian Hurwitz (King’s College London)


Ayesha Ahmad: CFP – Global Medical Humanities, Association for Medical Humanities Conference.

10 Feb, 13 | by Ayesha Ahmad

There has been continuous and vigorous debate about the theory and practice of medical humanities but only recently have questions been raised about the content and aims of the field in a global context. For example, in December 2011, Claire Hooker and Estelle Noonan published a paper entitled ‘Medical Humanities as Expressive of Western Culture’ in Medical Humanities. Based on their consultations with scholars in a range of Asian countries, they suggest that some curricula have been inappropriately influenced by Western medical history and the Western medical and artistic canon. This is not to deny that some Asian medical and non-medical faculties have long traditions of scholarship in social, cultural and historical dimensions of health and medicine. In spite of the diverse ethnic origins of professional healthcare students in the West, Western medical humanities has sometimes been, in effect, parochial. But those of us who have engaged in practical medical humanities teaching know that the motivations of all students, and their reactions to medical humanities, are diverse.

Ayesha Ahmad: CFP – ‘Ethics Under Cover: Comics, Medicine, and Society’.

10 Feb, 13 | by Ayesha Ahmad

Ethics Under Cover: Comics, Medicine and Society

5th-7th July 2013

Brighton and Sussex Medical School

Brighton and Sussex Medical School in collaboration with Brighton and Sussex University Hospital Trust and Graphic Medicine invites papers for the fourth international conference on Comics and Medicine. Previous meetings have been held in London, Chicago and Toronto (more information


Ayesha Ahmad: Hippocrates Prize for Poetry and Medicine Competition

30 Dec, 12 | by Ayesha Ahmad

The Hippocrates Initiative began in 2009 as the Hippocrates Prize for Poetry and Medicine for an unpublished poem on a medical subject. The Hippocrates Initiative now also includes an annual international symposia at which the Hippocrates awards are presented, an international research forum for poetry and medicine and The Hippocrates Press.


Ayesha Ahmad: A Narrative Future for Healthcare Conference

28 Dec, 12 | by Ayesha Ahmad

Abstract Deadline: Sat., Jan. 5
Event Date: Wed., June 19 – Fri., June 21
Location: King’s College Guy’s Hospital Campus, London, England

Ayesha Ahmad: EVENT – Irish Eyes: Vision in Modern Irish Culture (03-04/12/12)

11 Nov, 12 | by Ayesha Ahmad

The Centre for the Humanities and Health at King’s College London invites you to a series of events to investigate the relationship between ‘Irishness,’ vision and medicine in modern Irish art and literature.


Ayesha Ahmad: Where Our Ancestors Walked (Danced)

2 Aug, 12 | by Ayesha Ahmad

I recently attended a performance by choreographer, Gregory Maqoma, from South Africa. I was not aware of the profound reflections that would occur during the movements of his dance; a depiction of the life-story of his great-grandfather.


Ayesha Ahmad: Call for ‘Stories’; Symposium edited by Tod Chambers

1 Aug, 12 | by Ayesha Ahmad

Narrative Inquiry in Bioethics will publish an issue devoted to personal stories from bioethicists about the experience of being ill or caring for a person who is ill. We are particularly interested in those stories that have affected how a bioethicist “does” ethics. We want true, personal stories in a form that is easy to read.

Seema Biswas and Professor Mark Clarfield: ‘In a Better World’

24 Jul, 12 | by Ayesha Ahmad

How often when we seek to do good can we cause real harm?  The Academy  award-winning Danish film, In a Better World, explores this paradox through the lives of Elias and his parents: for Elias’ father – a doctor – trying to save the world comes at a heavy price.

Written by Anders Jensen, who also penned Election Night, another Oscar winner, and directed by Susanne Bier, who directed Things we Lost in the Fire, this beautifully acted film beginning when, Christian, a 12 year-old boy, who will become a fast friend of Elias is brought back to idyllic Denmark after the death of his mother.  Christian is clearly troubled and angry, feeling let down by the adult world. In his new school he quickly becomes friends with Elias. Elias is being bullied-; Christian is  outraged and his tactics in taking on the bullies become ever-more alarming.

In the meantime, oblivious to all of this, Elias’ father, Anton, a solid, reliable humanitarian surgeon is working in an African refugee camp. Amidst the suffering there is a sense that good work is being done, at least until a local warlord seeks treatment for an injured leg. Ignoring all protest from the other patients in the camp, many of whose family members the warlord has grievously injured,   Anton agrees to look after the “Big Man”. His beneficence is not repaid in kind: while operating on a woman, he is interrupted in the grossest and most offensive manner by the warlord. Anton finally snaps. This is this warlord’s last violation. Despite clearly feeling torn, Anton allows the mob in the camp to deal with him.

This episode behind him, Anton returns to Denmark, his marriage failing, Christian out of control and Elias getting dragged deeper into trouble. Anton, trying to make peace and set an example to the boys, tries in vain to reason with a mechanic who threatens him and the children.  The mechanic slaps Anton across the face. He stands unflinching as the boys look on – literally and figuratively turning the other cheek. The lesson comes too late. Now the boys are pushed too far and the consequences are lethal.

We are left asking ourselves how we would react in these situations: are there people in the world who are just not worth saving? Can we really deal out rough justice to a patient who fills us with justifiable revulsion? We know the right answers, of course, but, as we watch, each one of us worries that the day may come when we might also reach breaking point.

The fallout for the doctor is potentially enormous, perhaps career-ending, with every professional and humanitarian principle in medicine and relief work at stake; as well, the personal consequences could be something he could never live with. For the boys perhaps it is already too late. They have gone too far. Would we notice that our family is falling apart while we are saving lives in some far corner of the world?

Apart from the riveting scenes in Africa, the film has perhaps one of the best portrayals of school bullying in recent cinema. It offers a chilling account of how far things can go when, even, for a moment, good men choose to do nothing.

Medical humanities blog homepage

Medical Humanities

An international peer review journal for health professionals and researchers in medical humanities. Visit site

Latest from Medical Humanities

Latest from Medical Humanities