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September 10, 1982

The Physician in Literature

JAMA. 1982;248(10):1245. doi:10.1001/jama.1982.03330100071040

In our culture, medicine and literature have long coexisted in an uneasy relationship. Physicians and writers have regarded each other with mutual fascination and distrust, both eager yet wary in their attempts to comprehend and control the human condition. If there is one issue that separates scientists and humanists, it is the dispute concerning the primacy of the quantitative over the qualitative view of nature. The more physicians and writers exchange ideas and information, however, the more it appears that neither view offers a satisfactory answer, but that both supplement each other.

Recent years have seen a number of studies by writers and physician-writers that examine aspects of disease, death, and the physician-patient relationship in plays, poems, and prose; courses in medicine and literature have found their way into undergraduate and medical school curricula.1,2 This growing interest in furthering the dialogue between the two cultures has produced a number