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Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Abruptly changing the subject: Empathy from doctors

The man diagnosed with lung cancer sounded dispirited when talking about what cigarettes had done to him.

"I was always told I had a good strong heart and lungs. But the lungs couldn't withstand all [those] cigarettes…asbestos and pollution and secondhand smoke and all these other things, I guess," he said.

"Do you have glaucoma?" the doctor responded, abruptly changing the subject.

In her recent study in the Archives of Internal Medicine, Dr. Diane Morse recorded physicians’' appointments, and noted 384 times when patients mentioned concerns or emotions about mortality. Doctors responded with empathy only 10% of the time.

Advice: Find a doctor with both empathy and excellent technical skills.

Read a story on compassion.

Thanks to Will Dunham for the source article in the Boston Globe of Sept. 23.

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