How to clarify the aims of empathy in medicine.
Med Health Care Philos. 2018 Mar 22;:
Authors: Betzler RJ
This 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.
PMID: 29569136 [PubMed - as supplied by publisher]
Daily Spousal Responsiveness Predicts Longer-Term Trajectories of Patients' Physical Function.
Psychol Sci. 2017 Jun;28(6):786-797
Authors: Wilson SJ, Martire LM, Sliwinski MJ
Everyday interpersonal experiences may underlie the well-established link between close relationships and physical health, but multiple-timescale designs necessary for strong conclusions about temporal sequence are rarely used. The current study of 145 patients with knee osteoarthritis and their spouses focused on a novel pattern in everyday interactions, daily spousal responsiveness-the degree to which spouses' responses are calibrated to changes in patients' everyday verbal expression of pain. Using couple-level slopes, multilevel latent-variable growth models tested associations between three types of daily spousal responsiveness (empathic, solicitous, and punishing responsiveness), as measured during a 3-week experience-sampling study, and change in patients' physical function across 18 months. As predicted, patients whose spouses were more empathically responsive to their pain expression showed better physical function over time compared with those whose spouses were less empathically responsive. This study points to daily responsiveness, a theoretically rooted operationalization of spousal sensitivity, as important for long-term changes in patients' objective physical function.
PMID: 28459650 [PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]