Pathways to Empathy?

Empathy is a long-standing theme in medical humanities scholarship (and our blog is no exception: https://medicalhumanities.wordpress.com/?s=empathy). Paul Stepansky’s essay will make you think again about this important topic…

Medicine, Health, and History

Dipping into the vast[1] literature on clinical empathy, one quickly discerns the dominant storyline.  Everyone agrees that empathy, while hard to define,  hovers around a kind of physicianly caring that incorporates emotional connection with patients.  The connection conveys sensitivity to the patient’s life circumstances and personal psychology, and gains expression in the physician’s ability to encourage the patient to express emotion, especially as it pertains to his medical condition.  Then the physician draws on her own experience of similar emotions in communicating an “accurate” empathic understanding of how the patient feels and why he should feel that way.

Almost all commentators agree that empathy, whatever it is, is a good thing indeed.  They cite empirical research linking it to more efficient and effective care, to patients who are more trusting of their doctors, more compliant in following instructions, and more satisfied with the outcome of treatment. Patients want doctors…

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One Response to Pathways to Empathy?

  1. Pingback: Can Doctors Learn Empathy? | SNS Post

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