Why Physicians Need ‘Right Compassion’


To be effective in relieving suffering, doctors must strike a balance between paucity and excess of empathy.

As a young doctor working in the E.R. my capacity for compassion, and that of my colleagues, was often stretched; this was particularly the case when my patients could be said to have brought misfortune on themselves. I saw drug addicts suffering overdose, teenagers retching after self-poisoning, thieves injured through being arrested, all treated more brusquely than other theoretically more blameless patients.

I tried hard to maintain empathy, reflecting that the overdosed, self-poisoned and criminal may no more have brought their problems on themselves than those with skiing or horse-riding injuries or heart palpitations through overwork.


But it’s complicated: I’ve stitched up many slashed wrists cut not through willfulness but as a release from intense anguish; I’ve attended alcoholics for whom alcohol was clearly a substitute for love.


I may not have always succeeded, but I always hoped that my humanity, or my professional duty to provide a high standard of care, would step in when my compassion was running low.


By GAVIN FRANCIS
NY Time  Opinion Pages
 

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Sourced through Scoop.it from: www.nytimes.com

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