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Literature as a Reflexive Strategy on Humanism and Ethics in Medical Education: A Qualitative Study

Larissa Balbi Liliane Lins Marta Silva Menezes About the authors


Education is a social pillar characterized by its nobility and complexity and has undergone a paradigmatic shift from the unilateral and vertical teaching model to a more dynamic one, facilitating an open dialogue between teachers and students. Contemporary medicine has experienced a similar period of change, creating a growing need to better prepare medical students for dealing with dilemmas and conflicts in the healthcare field. Literary fiction is a teaching tool that follows the line of the active methodology and allows for reflection, debate, and a confrontation of ideas. This study aimed to identify the benefits of using literature as part of the medical degree, with a particular focus on “Blindness” by José Saramago. To this end, we developed a descriptive study featuring qualitative analysis, involving participation of first-year medical students who have attended the Ethics and Bioethics course at the Bahía School of Medicine and Public Health. After reading Saramago’s work, students answered a procedural evaluation of the said component. Four themes emerged upon our thematic analysis of student responses: observation of the world and professional practice by medical students; humanization of medical practice in the face of social invisibility; technocentric medical practice and humanization; and medical students’ awareness of the importance of literature in their training. The diversity, richnes and verticality of the responses submitted suggest that the reading of “Blindness” contributed positively to the students’ learning of ethical and bioethical principles (beneficence, non-maleficence, autonomy, and justice) and added to their personal and professional formation. As reading is an individual experience, however, there is no way to ensure that the contribution was of the same magnitude for all students.

Medical Education; Bioethics; Literature

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