Doctors can never empathise with patients

GPs who respond to a patient's distress by saying they understand how they feel are likely to be resented and self deceiving, according to a GP.

Dr Jane Macnaughton
Dr Jane Macnaughton

Writing in The Lancet today, Dr Jane Macnaughton, a former GP now working as an honorary consultant at the University Hospital of North Durham, says: ‘I can be close to tears with a patient but 10 minutes later engage in a lighthearted conversation with a colleague over coffee.

‘The sadness or fear or whatever feeling I have experienced is not sustained and is so different from what the patient is feeling that it seems disrespectful to suggest that I somehow participate in his or her experience.’

Dr Macnaughton believes that true empathy ‘derives from an experience of intersubjectivity and this cannot be achieved in the doctor-patient relationship’.

neil.durham@haymarket.com

  • Can GPs and nurses empathise with patients?

Comment below and tell us what you think

Have you registered with us yet?

Register now to enjoy more articles and free email bulletins

Register

Already registered?

Sign in

Before commenting please read our rules for commenting on articles.

If you see a comment you find offensive, you can flag it as inappropriate. In the top right-hand corner of an individual comment, you will see 'flag as inappropriate'. Clicking this prompts us to review the comment. For further information see our rules for commenting on articles.

comments powered by Disqus