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The purpose of medical humanities is to improve the delivery of effective health care through a better understanding of disease - in society, and in the individual. The interfaces between the science of medicine and the arts, philosophy, sociology and law interpret causes and effects of disease. The field of medical ethics is the most prominent offspring of this wider debate, yet the context of disease in the life of the individual and of society is profound and far-reaching. The influences of medicine on the humanities and vice versa are all around, yet only recently have they been recognised in the wider world of health care.