From Detached Concern to Empathy: Humanizing Medical Practice

Paperback | August 4, 2011

byJodi Halpern

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Physicians recognize the importance of patients' emotions in healing yet believe their own emotional responses represent lapses in objectivity. Patients complain that physicians are too detached. Halpern argues that by empathizing with patients, rather than detaching, physicians can best helpthem. Yet there is no consistent view of what, precisely, clinical empathy involves. This book challenges the traditional assumption that empathy is either purely intellectual or an expression of sympathy. Sympathy, according to many physicians, involves over-identifying with patients, threateningobjectivity and respect for patient autonomy. How can doctors use empathy in diagnosing and treating patients rithout jeopardizing objectivity or projecting their values onto patients? Jodi Halpern, a psychiatrist, medical ethicist and philosopher, develops a groundbreaking account of emotional reasoning as the core of clinical empathy. Sheargues that empathy cannot be based on detached reasoning because it involves emotional skills, including associating with another person's images and spontaneously following another's mood shifts. Yet she argues that these emotional links need not lead to over-identifying with patients or otherlapses in rationality but rather can inform medical judgement in ways that detached reasoning cannot. For reflective physicians and discerning patients, this book provides a road map for cultivating empathy in medical practice. For a more general audience, it addresses a basic human question: howcan one person's emotions lead to an understanding of how another person is feeling?

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Physicians recognize the importance of patients' emotions in healing yet believe their own emotional responses represent lapses in objectivity. Patients complain that physicians are too detached. Halpern argues that by empathizing with patients, rather than detaching, physicians can best helpthem. Yet there is no consistent view of wha...

Jodi Halpern, M.D., Ph.D., is Associate Professor of Bioethics and Medical Humanities at the University of California, Berkeley. She received her B.A., M.D., and Ph.D. in philosophy from Yale University, did an internship at the UCLA/ Wadsworth VA Medical Centers, and completed a residency in psychiatry at the UCLA Neuropsychiatric In...
Format:PaperbackDimensions:192 pages, 9.21 × 6.14 × 0.68 inPublished:August 4, 2011Publisher:Oxford University PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0199768706

ISBN - 13:9780199768707

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Table of Contents

Preface1. Failures of Emotional Communication2. Managing Emotions as a Professional Ideal3. Emotional Reasoning4. The Concept of Clinical Empathy5. Respecting Patient Autonomy6. Cultivating Empathy in Medical PracticeBibliographyIndex

Editorial Reviews

"This lovely volume fixes on a profound truth in medicine: to the degree we are moved by our patients suffering we are better able to help them. The age of proteomics and genomics is the age of 'objective reality', yet for the patient it is all about humane empathetic care. Halpern in thisscholarly and wonderful readable volume shows us that empathy is just as critical for the physician and without it healing cannot begin. This book is a must read for all of us with an interest in medical practice." --Abraham Verghese MD, author of Cutting For Stone, Professor of Medicine, Stanford University