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The Humanities and the Future of Bioethics Education


Let’s face it, the humanities are in trouble. Last year, in The Chronicle of Higher Education, Thomas H. Benton warned prospective graduate students to avoid doctoral studies in the humanities. His rationale: a job market down 40%, the improbability of tenure, the more certain prospect of life as an adjunct, and eventual outright exile from one’s chosen field. Benton, the pen name of William Pannapacker, an associate professor of English at Hope College in Holland, Michigan, pulled no punches. His piece was entitled, “Graduate School in the Humanities: Just Don’t Go.”

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1. Benton TH. Graduate school in the humanities: Just don’t go. The Chronicle of Higher Education 2009; available at

2. See note 1, Benton 2009.

3. Cassell EJ. The nature of suffering and the goals of medicine. New England Journal of Medicine 1982;306(11):639–45.

4. Fins JJ. A Palliative Ethic of Care: Clinical Wisdom at Life’s End. Sudbury, MA: Jones and Bartlett Publishers; 2006.

5. Fins JJ, Maltby BS, Friedmann E, Green M, Norris K, Adelman R, Byock I. Contracts, covenants and advance care planning: An empirical study of the moral obligations of patient and proxy. Journal of Pain and Symptom Management 2005;29(1):55–68.

6. Emanuel E.Plenary Address. American Society for Bioethics and Humanities Anuual Meeting. Washington, D.C., October 15, 2009.

7. Nilson EG, Fins JJ. Reinvigorating ethics consultations: An impetus from the “quality” debate. HEC Forum 2006;18(4):298–304.

8. Dubler NN, Webber M, Swiderski D, The Faculty and National Working Group for the Clinical Credentialing Project. Securing excellence in clinical ethics consultation: Credentialing and privileging consultants and engaging in ongoing quality improvement. The Hastings Center Report 2009;39:23–33.

9. Jonsen AR. The Birth of Bioethics. New York: Oxford; 1998.

10. Snow CP. The Two Cultures and The Scientific Revolution. New York: Cambridge University Press; 1959.

11. Dewey J. The quest for certainty. In: Boydston JA, ed. John Dewey, The Later Works, 1925–1953. Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press; 1988.

12. See note 9, Jonsen 1998:13.

13. Fins JJ, de Melo Martin I. C.P. Snow’s two cultures fifty years later: An enduring problem with an elusive solution. Technology in Society 2010;32(1):1–4.

14. Fins JJ. C.P. Snow at Wesleyan: Liberal learning and the origins of the “third culture.” Technology in Society 2010;32(1):10–7.

15. See note 9, Jonsen 1998.

16. See note 1, Benton 2009.

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Cambridge Quarterly of Healthcare Ethics
  • ISSN: 0963-1801
  • EISSN: 1469-2147
  • URL: /core/journals/cambridge-quarterly-of-healthcare-ethics
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