Can Psychodrama be a Tool in Ethics Education ?

- Yaman Ors MD, D.Phil.

Unit of Medical Ethics, Ankara Medical Faculty, Sihhiya, 06100 Ankara, TURKEY


Eubios Journal of Asian and International Bioethics 6 (1996), 16-17.
From time to time, I and my colleagues witness the arrival of interns who, as last-grade medical students, would like to spend their one-month elective period in our Unit. Besides being participants in the regular and "accidental" activities here-courses, seminars, lectures, panel discussions and others- they are expected to prepare two rather different texts: a very short and critical account of what they have observed during their stay at the Unit; and a rather long one, in form similar to an article, which they are expected to write and present as a seminar at the end of their period; they would have one or more advisors to supervise them for the latter activity.

Our "guest" in October was S. Olga Husamoglu, a young lady with two characteristics which are of interest to us in the present context. She would like to be a psychiatrist and was, as a member of the Ankara Medical Players, an experienced actress. This group has been active in our Faculty for about ten years now and taken part in different festivals playing, successfully, either their own texts or fiction parts they have adapted. They have had an approach to the stage which I might call basically experimental and semi-absurd in Bechett's style. Besides, and expectedly I think, some of these students were "serious" thinkers, and evidently Olga was one. Having sensed this on her very first day with us, I asked her whether she would not like to contribute to the idea of Ethico-Drama (1), which has been, in my view, a very interesting recent development in our academic milieu.

Following, upon my advice, her contacts with other academics in our immediate environment, Olga was quick in grasping the fact that what has been called Ethico-Drama was a concept with too little material to work on for the time being. And with her insistence on producing an original text, a work "of her own", we decided to work on the possibility of whether psychodrama could be a tool in medical ethics education (2). As an almost natural result of this development, and willingly, I had to be Olga's main advisor, with four others acting as co- advisors at different stages of her work.

Further, in this chain of rather surprising chance events, the German Cultural Centre in Ankara devoted one week to an international seminar on Creative Drama in Education in its October activities, and we had the opportunity of attending to one of the panel discussions and to a "dramatic" application of masks. "Drama is a way of life" and "dramatic is a form of play" were among the "sayings" of the Ankara Contemporary Drama Society, the academic organizer of the related events during the week.

The conclusive points in Olga's comparative work consisted of the following: (a) While catharsis through the role-play of an earlier experience of one's own is an important component of psychodrama, a real or fictive event can possibly be materialized by medical ethicists only in the form of a stage performance. (b) Empathy, while very much in the foreground in psychodrama, can be valid for the medical ethicist only to a limited extent in such a context. (c) Psychodrama as a method must be learned by the persons involved; would educators in medical ethics not be expected to learn the related technique(s)? (d) The most important point, according to Olga, is that the main player in psychodrama must open his/her inner world to the group without restriction. Can medical ethicists do so in front of their colleagues? If they cannot, would this not interfere with spontaneity so much needed in psychodrama? And, in that case, would the method in question have any meaning or function at all in a medical ethics setting? (2)

Although Olga did point out at the end of her presentation the need of further study by searching for other similarities and differences between psychodrama and its possible use in medical ethics education (2), her conclusion seems to be, on the whole, a negative answer to the question in her title. As for her expectation of originality, she mentioned the name of Nil Sar, originally a psychologist, and now the Chairwoman of the Unit of Deontology and Medical History and Cerrahpasa Medical Faculty in Istanbul. She had a similar idea and tried in her classes to apply certain drama-like performances on the relationship between patients and physicians (and/or other health professionals). But, Olga remarks, at the centre of Professor Sari's attempts lies empathy, and she neither mentions the term "psychodrama" nor names it in any other way in the short informative text she sent to us.

On the other hand, and as far as I am concerned, I read with interest the comments of two colleagues from Israel on my previous article (3,4). They have made interesting contributions, to be sure, to the chain of recent "dramas" in my academic life, and their letters do need careful consideration. I am planning to discuss their main points in my next article on Ethico-Drama and Psychodrama. I might just end this one with the following motto added by Doctor Selim Kadioglu on to the developed form of the Ethico-Drama Company's logo: "Actus longus, plausus brevis".


1. …rs, Y. "Ethico-Drama" and Education in Bioethics", EJAIB 5 (1995), 154.
2. Husamoglu, S. Ol. ("Can Psychodrama be Part of Medical Ethics Education's?") Internship Selective Seminar Presentation, Ankara Medical Faculty, The Unit of Medical Ethics, 30 October 1995.
3. Hare, J. R. "Commentary on …rs", EJAIB 5 (1995), 154-155.
4. Leavitt, F. J. "Commentary on …rs and Azariah" EJAIB 5 (1995), 155-156.
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