Bioethics Blogs

Graphic Medicine Manifesto by Juliet McMullin

In organizing the 6th Annual Conference of Comics and Medicine, I frequently heard the refrain “Comics and medicine? What’s that? How do those two things go together?” Indeed, I even heard that comment from the comic book store manager whom I had asked to sell selected books at the conference. The Graphic Medicine Manifesto (2015) is a brilliant response to this question. This collection of essays introduces us to the history, interdisciplinary frameworks and intersections, and vision for the growing fields of Graphic Medicine. In the introductory chapter we are treated to a comic with each of the authors’ avatars who introduce us to Graphic Medicine and the work of the contributors, MK Czerwiec, Ian Williams, Susan Merrill Squier, Michael J. Green, Kimberly R. Myers, and Scott T. Smith. As key figures in the Graphic Medicine community, these health practitioners, humanities scholars, and comics artists represent some of the diversity of thought engaging this field. In an innovative effort to include more voices from the greater Graphic Medicine community, the conclusion features avatars drawn by artists and scholars who also contribute to the conversation.

The Graphic Medicine Manifesto is an innovative collection of essays that chart the importance of comics as a field of research, guide us in how to read comics and their iconography, and ask how comics can be used in patient care and in medical education. Primarily situated in the Narrative Medicine conversation (Charon 2008), the essays argue that comics about illness, “pathographies,” generate multiple paths for achieving self-reflexivity and inclusivity. The practices of making and reading pathographies allow readers and creators to shift perspective, to see health, illness, and medical encounters from someone else’s perspective, and to know that there are people out there who share similar experiences of suffering.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.