Medical Humanities


Undergraduate Research Projects

Project Title​
Respecting Autonomy in Severely Demented Patients Through Advanced Medical Directives

​This paper discusses the problem that Margo, a severely demented patient, faces when she has pneumonia. The doctor has received her advanced medical directive (AMD) where she indicated that she would reject all forms of treatment that will prolong her life. Medical practitioners who are supposed to help patients face the dilemma between two principles of bioethics, namely the autonomy principle and the beneficence principle. By going against her wishes, it is against the nature of their jobs. By curing her as their job requires, they will be acting paternalistically. I argue that Margo’s precedent autonomy, as expressed in the AMD should be respected despite her being pleasurably demented. Failing to respect the AMD would mean to disrespect Margo as a person, even if there might be possible benefits when she gets the medication. Her AMD is an important tool, an expression of her autonomy, that allows her to extent her values and wishes to the future even when she is incompetent and it places constraints on what doctors can do to her body. It also helps Margo to continue to live her life as a coherent whole through a narrative that she had planned beforehand.

Student: Li Xue Er
Supervisor: Dr Melvin Chen 
Medicinal Plants in Abui Language and Culture

These Projects aim at the collection, description, reconstruction, documentation, and safeguard of the names of medicinal plants in Abui (South-Eastern Indonesia, Timor area, Alor-Pantar archipelago, Alor Island) language and culture. Abui is a Papuan language spoken by Abui people in the central part of Alor Island. The goal is to develop an Abui dictionary of medicinal plants' names, reconstructing the etymologies of those phytonyms and the possibly related Abui stories and legends connected with them. Moreover, the Projects will analyze the different uses of medicinal plants and the various traditional medical practices in Alor with a focus on their real therapeutic properties and effectiveness and on the 'mythological' features attributed to them by indigenous people. These Projects associate Field Linguistics and Language Documentation with Cultural Anthropology, Etymology, and Botany. 


  • Medicinal Plants and Their Stories: Intangible Heritage in Alor Island (Shaun Lim Tyan Gin)
  • Medicinal Plants and Their Stories 2: A Botanist's Dictionary in Alor Island (Lim Jia Yi)
  • Medicinal Plants and Their Stories 3: Oral Tradition and Healing Wisdom in Alor (Felicia Hor Xue Ting)

Supervisor: Dr Francesco Perono Cacciafoco