Jodi Halpern M.D., Ph.D, is Associate Professor of
Bioethics and Medical Humanities at the University of California, Berkeley,
in the Joint Medical Program and the School of Public Health. As a
psychiatrist with a background in philosophy, she investigates how emotions
and the imagination shape healthcare decisions of clinicians and patients. She is author of
From Detached Concern to Empathy: Humanizing Medical Practice.
Clinical Empathy: "As a psychiatrist as well as
a faculty member in bioethics at UC Berkeley for almost two decades, I’ve
investigated what happens to patients when their doctors show a lack of
empathy. Doctors were trained to believe that emotional detachment from
patients is personally and professionally necessary, but experience shows
that patients don’t trust doctors who are aloof or superficially friendly.
Yet, only recently have studies proven just how harmful detachment and how
beneficial empathy is for healing...."
Sub Conference: Health Care and Science
Director of the Center for Building a Culture of Empathy, hosts a
discussion with two
primary leaders in the movement to transform medical
culture from detachment to a culture of empathy.
Riess M.D., Ph.D is Associate Clinical Professor of
Psychiatry, Harvard Medical School and Director of the Empathy and
Relational Science Program at Massachusetts General Hospital. She
is Chief Technology Officer of
which offers scientifically based empathy training
proven to optimize interpersonal engagement.
(considers emotional reasoning, moods, and the nature of emotions.)
Moods and temperaments
Strategic nature of emotions
"This chapter explores the subjectivity of emotional judgments. A major
thesis of this book is that by critically using these subjective sources
of information physicians will take fuller histories and engage in more
effective communication.... This Chapter has argued the the very
properties of emotional reasoning that traditionally have been equated
with irrationality can be harnessed in service of medical care if
physicians can develop self-awareness. The most important use of
emotional reasoning is for the practice of clinical empathy."
Psychoanalytic View of Empathy as Affective Merging
model of Clinical empathy as emotional reasoning
Summary: By contributing to diagnosis, patient autonomy, and
therapeutic influences, empathy leads to more effective and not just
more pleasing, medical care.
We're in the process of doing the interviews and reviews of
Chapters 5 to 6. Stay Tuned.
Chapter 5: Respecting Patient Autonomy:
From Non-Interference to Empathy
Looks at the important issue of patient autonomy. Does respecting the
autonomy of the patient allow freedom for an interpersonal relationship
and clinical empathy to develop?
Autonomy: Beyond Non-Interference
Autonomy - Kant on
3. Autonomy versus
4. Suffering, Empathy, and the Interpersonal Basis of Autonomy
5. Kantian Theory and Positive Obligation to Share Ends
Complex Relationship between Empathy and Respecting Autonomy
Chapter 6: Cultivating Empathy in Medical Practice Halpern discusses the vital issue of medical education and the
importance of changing entrenched medical attitudes and practice.
From Certainty to Creativity
Emotional Irrationality Revisited: Finding the Therapeutic Opportunity
Regaining mental Freedom
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This panel with experts in the field of healthcare
explored the role of empathy and compassion in providing medical
A few of the questions addressed were;
How do those providing objective medical
care, especially around the grim subject of one's own death,
provide compassionate care without absorbing the emotions
surrounding imminent death?
Sub Conference: Health Care
Don't Blame Empathy Jodi Halpern MD, PhD,- Huffington Post
Author, From Detached Concern to Empathy, Associate Professor of
BIoethics at UC Berkeley, School of Public Health
"In a recent New Yorker piece, Paul Bloom argues that empathy is the
wrong stance for public morality, as in promoting public health,
because it focuses our attention on the individuals we readily
empathize with -- such as the baby stuck in a well -- and blinds us to
the unmet needs of the many whose problems are harder to imagine. Mr.
Bloom makes a number of valid points. But, as Michael Zakaras points
out, Bloom seems to miss the cognitive aspects of empathy, and thus
misses the crucial role that empathy must play in ethical decisions.
Zakaras, though, goes too far in defending empathy as the basis of a
coherent moral vision. Both authors ignore the bigger problem we face
in policy decisions, which is that we seem to lack a capacity to bring
our distinct moral perspectives -- empathy, justice, efficiency --
into one coherent view. This is a limitation of reason, not of
"Until the past two decades, physicians (unlike other caregivers) have
been skeptical about empathy, assuming that it would interfere with
their clinical objectivity and effectiveness. This has shifted as
research has shown that empathy plays a fundamental role in both
diagnostic accuracy and treatment effectiveness. Repeated studies show
that patients first give superficial clues about their histories until
they sense empathy, and only then disclose anxiety-provoking information
(as happened in the reported case)."
-What is Clinical Empathy? Journal of General Internal Medicine:
"Patients seek empathy from their physicians. Medical educators
increasingly recognize this need. Yet in seeking to make empathy a
reliable professional skill, doctors change the meaning of the term.
Outside the field of medicine, empathy is a mode of understanding that
specifically involves emotional resonance. In contrast, leading
physician educators define empathy as a form of detached cognition. In
contrast, this article argues that physicians' emotional attunement
greatly serves the cognitive goal of understanding patients' emotions.
This has important implications for teaching empathy."
From Detached Concern to Empathy: Humanizing Medical
Practice - Philip Berry "Like all good inventions, Jodi Halpern's new
and “controversial” model of empathy appears to be the result of common
sense imaginatively applied. Empathy should, she asserts, result from a
willingness on the part of the doctor to take cues from his own
emotional responses to a patient's suffering. It requires more than the
“detached concern” that she believes, a little harshly I think, is the
norm. Nor is an insufficiently intellectual “sympathetic immersion” in a
patient's woes enough."
April 27th, 2010 - From Detached Concern to Empathy: Humanizing Medical
"Here’s a title that caught my eye, authored by Jodi Halpern. In From
Detached Concern to Empathy: Humanizing Medical Practice, Halpern makes
a strong case for doctors employing empathy with patients instead of
detached concern. Courageously, she points out the healing qualities of
empathy as well as the simple practical application in institutional
settings. From the Forward:"
From Detached Concern to Empathy: Humanizing Medical
"Sick people and those who care for them have together learned a great
deal in the recent past about the conditions most conducive to effective
health care. Patients and their families have, with great generosity and
bravery, written about their ordeals of illness in pathographies and
memoirs, giving health professionals thick descriptions of what persons
undergo at the hands of disease and its treatment (Hawkins 1999; Frank
1995). Nurses, therapists, and doctors—including Cortney Davis, Abraham
Verghese, Rachel Remen, Jerome Groopman, and Susan Mates—have written
with reflection and curiosity about how they live their lives around
sick and dying people, their rewards proportional to their personal