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The Empathy of Doctors for Patients: Is It Good or Bad?

The Empathy of Doctors for Patients: Is It Good or Bad?

"Empathy is the capacity to think and feel oneself into the inner life of another person."


In the medical field, empathy is said to be the core of a good physician-patient relationship. Knowing and understanding the feelings of patients is found to improve certain aspects in the process of treatment. Practicing empathy towards patients is being encouraged among medical practitioners as the presence of empathy is found to increase patient satisfaction, physician satisfaction, improved therapeutic relationships, and overall improved clinical outcomes. For this reason, empathy training programs are being conducted to allow medical students and professionals learn and practice this ability.

The Downside of Empathy

Some claim, howeVer, that the practice of empathy is not advisable in the medical profession. Doctors, at all times, should maintain a neutral disposition in the workplace. They say that being empathic towards patients may possibly hamper the delivery of quality medical care. The simple sharing of feelings between doctor and patient makes both parties vulnerable and can bring upon negative outcomes.The Empathy of Doctors for Patients: Is It Good or Bad?


Others believe though that being empathic is different from being emotionally attached. Humans are naturally altruistic beings and it is just innate to feel concern for the welfare of other people. Some also assert that it is possible to get to know and understand another person's feelings and yet be emotionally distant to the person at the same time. Emotional attachment, however, can result from having much empathy than is necessary.

How Much Is Too Much?

Medical practitioners must avoid getting emotionally attached to patients as this may affect their sound judgment and focus. Doctors who develop emotional attachments may consequently make rash decisions regarding the patient's treatment. This may then increase the errors made in the medical practice and thus increase hazards to the patient. Moreover, being emotionally attached is not good towards the medical professional as well because it results to physical and psychological distress.

Even if having empathy may seem natural to people, some doctors claim that they do not seem to have this ability. Whatever their nature may be though, empathy must still be encouraged among doctors, especially considering the fact that it helps bring improvement in the medical field. Nonetheless, like in all other situations, the saying "too much of something is bad" also applies in this case. It does not necessarily mean then that doctors must be cold and numb towards their patients and only make contact when treating them using medical instruments. What should be avoided is having too much empathy which may result to emotional attachment. Therefore, medical practitioners must remember to keep their emotions under control to maintain objectivity and professionalism in the workplace.

The Empathy of Doctors for Patients: Is It Good or Bad?

By: Sarah Kerr
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The Empathy of Doctors for Patients: Is It Good or Bad? Washington