Why the public needs empathic doctors.
Speech given to the Hillside Club, Berkeley, CA. April 2, 2012.
Excerpt 1: Empathy…an essential component.
Excerpt 2: What is empathy?
TRANSCRIPT: What is empathy? I’ll give a quick definition of what I think clinical empathy ought to be. Firstly, I just want to say that there is no particular ownership of the word empathy, there are clearly empathies, and there are a great variety of different ways that people listen to each other, respond to each other, take care of each other, and all of them are valuable. But I have a very specific view of what is needed in the clinical setting from your doctor, and that is an engaged curiosity. You need the doctor to have engagement, which means that they are genuinely emotionally responsive to you as a human being, and that is the first part of what I want to talk about, because there is a big tradition in medicine against that. So I am saying that they need to able to actually respond to you with their own emotional ‘human-ness.’
But then, the second part of the talk, and the case I want to bring out, is that that is not enough. People can be responsive to us, but they can be overly enmeshed with us; they can have all kind of reactions to us. We do need our doctors to have some kind of perspective if they are going to be helpful to us. So there is something much beyond being responsive, which is to be genuinely curious about their own reactions and, much more importantly, about what anything going on is telling them about you. The prerequisite of curiosity is the idea that you don’t already know everything about someone else, that each person is a mystery, a world, and that you need to be open to finding out surprising things. So, I can tell you the punchline: if your doctor says to you that they know how you feel, you are in trouble! Instead, what you want to hear from them is, “Tell me what I’m missing.”
A Huffington Post Live conversation hosted by Mark Lamont Hill, with Michael Kamber, Mickey Osterreicher and Russell Frank,
How to Build a Culture of Empathy in Healthcare
Jodi Halpern discusses her book with Edwin Rutsch, chapter by chapter.
Listen to the conversation:
Chapter 1: Failure of Emotional Communication in Medical Practice
Chapter 2: Managing Emotions as a Professional Ideal
Chapter 3: Emotional Reasoning
Chapter 4: The Concept of Clinical Empathy
Chapter 5: Respecting Patient Autonomy
Chapter 6: Cultivating Empathy in Medical Practice
Empathy in Critical Care
Empathy and Healthcare Conference.
A conversation convened by Edwin Rutsch, with Keonnis R. Taylor, Barbara Beach, Marilyn Ababio.
See the conversation.