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A Piece of My Mind
December 22/29, 2015

Responding to Suffering

Author Affiliations
  • 1Departments of Family Medicine, Psychiatry, and Oncology, University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry, Rochester, New York
  • 2Department of Medicine, Division of Oncology, University of Washington, Seattle
JAMA. 2015;314(24):2623-2624. doi:10.1001/jama.2015.13004

Patients suffer. Yet clinical care has moved away from addressing suffering. Suffering—“severe distress that threatens the integrity of the person”1—spans physical, emotional, social, spiritual, existential, and financial domains, and as a whole-person problem it doesn’t fit neatly within current biomedical paradigms. Suffering occurs in many clinical contexts, not only at the end of life, and calls on us as physicians to address our patients as whole persons, particularly challenging in our age of specialization and atomization in medicine.

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