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.