A holistic approach to Henry Peach Robinson’s ‘Fading Away’ for a medical humanities class


  • Manpreet Lota
  • Shraya Divaker
  • Arun Kumar Dubey
  • Malpe Surekha Bhat Xavier University School of Medicine


Empathy, Fading away, Illness narrative, Holistic approach, Henry Peach Robinson, Medical humanities


Henry Peach Robinson’s “Fading away” can be interpreted either through a reductionist approach or a holistic approach. He perfected this fictional photograph through five negatives to create an anecdote and change attitudes towards tuberculosis. While there are many interpretations of this piece of art from a reductionistic approach – literary, artistic, humanistic, or illness-narrative – there are hardly any from a holistic perspective integrating all these angles. When used during a medical humanities course, the photograph provoked students to think beyond the purely artistic and the purely medical aspects of disease. Some of the messages that medical students took home were: ‘grief could be experienced by anyone’; ‘love expands into diverse manifestations during times of sadness’; ‘we must empathize with others and what they go through’. This paper reports on our attempt to adopt a holistic approach to analyze the photograph from Robinson’s perspective and with respect to modern medicine.


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Author Biographies

Manpreet Lota

Medical Student, Xavier University School of Medicine, Oranjestad, Aruba

Shraya Divaker

Medical Student, Xavier University School of Medicine, Oranjestad, Aruba

Arun Kumar Dubey

Chief Academic Officer and Professor in Pharmacology, Xavier University School of Medicine, Aruba

Malpe Surekha Bhat, Xavier University School of Medicine

Former Assistant Dean, Curriculum Development & Planning and Former Coordinator for Medical Humanities, Xavier University School of Medicine, Aruba


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How to Cite

Lota, M., Divaker, S., Dubey, A. K., & Bhat, M. S. (2020). A holistic approach to Henry Peach Robinson’s ‘Fading Away’ for a medical humanities class. Research & Humanities in Medical Education, 7, 8-14. Retrieved from https://www.rhime.in/ojs/index.php/rhime/article/view/224