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(Jeffrey 2016)

First Published December 6, 2016 


"Empathy, sympathy and compassion are defined and conceptualised in many different ways in the literature and the terms are used interchangeably in research reports and in everyday speech.  This conceptual and semantic confusion has practical implications for clinical practice, research and medical education. Empathy, sympathy and compassion also share elements with other forms of pro-social behaviour such as generosity, kindness and patient-centredness. There is a need for conceptual clarity if doctors are to respond to the calls to provide more ‘compassionate care’.

 This paper argues that there is currently a problem in the balance between scientific–technical and psychosocial elements of patient care. A broad model of empathy is suggested which could replace the vaguer concepts of sympathy and compassion and so enable improvements in patient care, psycho-social research and medical education."

Doctors need empathy
 Dr David Jeffrey | 6th December 2016
 "Empathy in clinical practice is an essential component of the doctor-patient relationship. This is the understanding of how another human being is feeling without going through the emotional rollercoaster yourself. Unfortunately, however, it is often lacking. Indeed, studies of medical undergraduate education reveal some evidence that there is a decline in empathy as students move through their training. This could be because the message that predominates now seems to be that doctors and healthcare professionals need to be detached if they want to remain professional. I think this is totally wrong and leads to poor patient experience as well as less effective doctors."


David Jeffrey
"Currently, empathy and the ‘humanisation’ of medical care are of particular concern in the wake of high-profile reports. These include the Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust public inquiry; Dying Without Dignity , a report by the Health Service Ombudsman into end-of-life-care; and the Leadership Alliance for the Care of Dying People report, One Chance to Get it Right .1–3 These reports all pointed to an empathy deficit in clinical care. A disheartening aspect of the current situation is that empathy deficit is not a new phenomenon.In 1927, in a seminal study Peabody wrote: ‘One of the essential qualities of the clinician is interest in humanity, for the secret of the care of the patient is in caring for the patient.’ 4Twenty years ago, Weatherall argued that many of the ills of the medical profession reflect a lack of ‘whole person understanding’.5 More recently, Spiro observed that doctors who used to listen to patients now looked at a screen. He wrote: ‘Empathy has always been and will always be among the physician’s most essential tools of practice.’ 6Spiro argues that physicians must have the time to listen to patients."


Doctors need to develop broader skill of empathy
Rosalind Dewar
"Developing a broader skill of empathy is a more realistic goal for medical students and doctors than urging them to be more compassionate. Writing in the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine, Dr David Jeffrey, an honorary lecturer in palliative medicine at the Centre for Population Health Sciences in Edinburgh, says that doctors are at risk not only of personal distress but eventually burnout if their feelings of sympathy and compassion for patients override the more nuanced stance of empathy.

Dr Jeffrey writes that empathy is generally regarded an essential component of the doctor-patient relationship but doctors have always struggled to achieve a balance between empathy and clinical distance. "The central question seems to be how to empathise without becoming overwhelmed and burning out?""


Does Your Doctor Need to Show More Empathy?
By Rachael Rettner, Senior Writer | December 7, 2016
"Instead of being urged to simply "be more compassionate," doctors should learn specific empathy skills during their training to improve their care of patients, one doctor argues in a new paper.

According to Dr. David Jeffrey, an honorary lecturer in palliative medicine at the Center for Population Health Sciences in Edinburgh, Scotland, who wrote the paper, there is concern about a general lack of psychological and social support for patients from doctors. Some studies have found that medical students experience a decline in empathy for the

ir patients as they get further along in their training."