An Old Play for a New Day: e-Discussions with medical students about ethics in rural health

04-22-2021 11:24

Medical students should read or view the Henrik Ibsen play, "An Enemy of the People" to prepare for the discussion. This resource offers a discussion outline for faculty. 

Ibsen's play, a 139-year-old classic literary work, is surprisingly well suited as a vehicle to discuss modern dilemmas and principles in medical ethics, focusing on the situations encountered by the practicing rural family physician. The play presents many ethical questions that are still relevant in the  context of the COVID19 pandemic, including conflicts between individual liberty and public health recommendations, as well as the powerful influence of the media and social media on public opinion. Through the play’s characters, medical students explored the complex role and obligations of the rural generalist physician.

At our institution, first year medical student evaluations of the play and discussion were quite positive.  This curricular element is a resource for other medical and professional schools that have an interest in supporting rurally-relevant ethical content presented through the lens of medical humanities.

Author(s):James Boulger PhD, Emily Onello MD
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A guide for discussions about the medical ethical principles presented in Henrik Ibsen's play, An Enemy of the People. This literary work serves as a vehicle for modern discussions about the ethical dilemmas encountered by rural generalist physicians, with particular relevance during the COVID19 pandemic.

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