Michael Brannigan, M.D., a professor of philosophy and noted author on health care ethics, talked about the importance of humanity in medicine at the annual William T. Sirridge, M.D., Medical Humanities Lecture on March 22 at the School of Medicine.
Brannigan, who also serves as the George and Jane Pfaff Endowed Chair in Ethics and Moral Values at the College of St. Rose in Albany, N.Y., said there is no substitute for the interpersonal engagement between a physician and his or her patient.
“What is more utterly humane than working to relieve pain and suffering,” Brannigan said. “By virtue of what you do, your calling, your vocation, your profession is inherently noble. Medical humanities is all about humane medicine, therefore, it constitutes the pulse of what you do.”
Brannigan served as vice president for clinical and organizational ethics at the Center of Practical Bioethics in Kansas City from 2004 to 2007. He currently writes a monthly column on ethics for the Albany Times Union in addition to his work at College of Saint Rose and Albany Medical College
He spoke of how healing entails entering the patient’s world. Asked how today’s physicians do that as they are becoming more pressed for time with their patients, Brannigan said the trick is how physicians use what little time they have with their patients.
“The challenge is in the quality of time (spent with a patient,)” he said.
Following Brannigan’s talk, former SOM Dean Marjorie Sirridge, M.D., presented a painting by Japanese artist Fumio Sawa entitled “The Quality of Mercy” that will be donated to the School of Medicine and located in the Sirridge Office of Medical Humanities and Bioethics Conference Room. The painting was purchased at Kansas City’s Hyde Park Gallery during the Art of Medicine Exhibit and Reception in conjunction with the School’s 40th anniversary celebration earlier this year.