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(Betzle 2018)

How to clarify the aims of empathy in medicine
 Medicine, Health Care and Philosophy
December 2018, Volume 21, Issue 4, pp 569–582
Riana J. Betzler

AbstractThis paper argues that enthusiasm for empathy has grown to the point at which empathy has taken on the status of an “ideal” in modern medicine. We need to pause and scrutinize this ideal before moving forward with empathy training programs for medical students. Taking empathy as an ideal obscures the distinction between the multiple aims that calls for empathy seek to achieve. While these aims may work together, they also come apart and yield different recommendations about the sort of behavior physicians should cultivate in a given situation.

 I begin by demonstrating how enthusiasm for empathy has increased dramatically. I then specify precisely what I mean in calling empathy an “ideal.” I then describe some dangers associated with taking empathy to be an ideal unreflectively. I discuss the merits of works that provide conceptualizations of empathy that are specifically tailored for the medical domain and conclude that although these works move discussions about empathy in medical care forward, they could do more to foreground the goals and aims underlying calls for increased empathy.

 I provide specific suggestions as to how exactly we might foreground these goals and aims to further avoid conceptual confusion about empathy in medical education.


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