Consider This

Words are living things. We always create what we speak.


 The article below entitled Doctors and Empathy is one of the best essays on the subject of empathy I have ever read.

 The author criticizes the way physicians respond to patients but outlines the genesis of this behavior—how physicians’ training teaches them to become unsympathetic.


I have learned to recognize over the years that children who were neglected, abused, and molested grow up be either insensitive in many ways to the suffering of others—themselves also becoming abusive and cruel to others, or so overly empathic that they are unable to cope with life.


In the same way, the grueling schedules of physicians in training—the indifference and verbal cruelty to which the medical students and residents are exposed by some of the staff physicians and the humiliation to which they are subjected—all teach them to devalue the process of living while at the same time train them to respect the preservation of life and treatment of disease.


One cannot dismiss his or her own humanity and needs and empathize with the needs of others. That is why the Bible says that we are to love our neighbor as we love ourselves. We have to respect and love ourselves first or we will not be able to love others. How can I really care about the effect being up all night with a sick child has on a mother when I am called to be up all night several times a month with ill patients and I am told that being able to do that is a mantel of honor and a sign of strength?


The only way I can appreciate what that mother has to go through is for me to denounce that what I am doing may be necessary in this system, but it is neither ideal nor optimal. And I would have to acknowledge that what I do may actually be damaging myself physically and emotionally. Also, if I do not take time to recover and to restore physically and emotionally, I have confirmed that I am not really valuable and that my needs can and should be dismissed. In addition, some people may mistake feeling self-pity for empathy. However, self-pity will eventually make me feel resentful and will not empower me to take positive action.


Doctors are not the only ones who are the victims of this malice. People in the military, students, mothers, and other caregivers are also very vulnerable to feelings of indifference.

December 24th, 2013
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