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Hawaii Med J. 1995 Apr;54(4):495-7.

Empathy and medical education.

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John A. Burns School of Medicine, USA.


Spiro has said, "computed tomographic scans offer no compassion and magnetic resonance imaging has no human face. Only men and women are capable of empathy." Empathy is an essential and required part of our roles as caregivers. We must enhance this natural emotion that exists in each of us; we can do so by carefully designing a curriculum, much as we would for learning about the physiology of the liver. The roots of our need for detachment and equanimity go back to Sir William Osler, but the pendulum has swung too far, and the need for retention of millions of data bits overwhelms our souls. Although excessive emotion is destructive and counter-productive, we must not suppress our passion--but control it. The best physician both feels with the patient and prescribes for the patient at the same time. To do one without the other is inadequate care. As medical educators our task is clear.

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