Caroselli, Beachler & Coleman, L.L.C.

Lack of empathy and medical malpractice

A professor at the University of Pennsylvania medical school stated that empathy is now being emphasized as part of medical training. Only the treating doctors themselves could not figure out that the need for empathy was absolutely essential in treating patients, and that such empathy actually reduces the possibility of error leading to medical malpractice claims.

Part of the reason why empathy is of such importance is that patients are more likely to follow the instructions of a doctor that seems sympathetic to their plight. And for whatever reasons, it has been shown that diabetic patients treated by empathetic doctors scored higher concerning their ability to control their diabetes.

A study by a psychologist who has studied physician training has suggested that empathy may be as important for a patient as the "science of medicine." However, he emphasized that empathy is more than just sympathy for the suffering of others. It also involves an understanding as to how a patient thinks. So long as a doctor can convey such understanding to a patient, this doctor has also sent a message that he or she cares about helping the patient out.

Mistakes will be made without sufficient and accurate communication between doctors and their patients. Miscommunications or not adequately explaining why a patient should follow a particular course of treatment can only lead to making a patient's condition worse. In the sphere of the legal world, an attorney may look at this as medical malpractice.

With no disrespect for the doctor, every doctor needs to remember that it is the patient who is the most important person in the room.

Source:, "Jefferson researcher seeks way to make doctors more empathetic," by Stacey Burling, March 14, 2012

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