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October 13, 2010

Empathy in Medicine—A Neurobiological Perspective

Author Affiliations

Author Affiliations: Department of Psychiatry, Harvard Medical School, Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston.

JAMA. 2010;304(14):1604-1605. doi:10.1001/jama.2010.1455

A physician's attitude and approach affect every aspect of medical care for patients and their families. An empathic bedside manner is no quaint relic of the past. To restore and ensure public trust in the medical profession, new generations of physicians must understand the emotional, physiological, and practical consequences of discarding empathy. One legacy of medical education is overvaluing scientific measurement and undervaluing subjective experiences. The neurobiology of empathy offers hope for those who value the subjective experience of empathy and for those who find comfort in what can be measured.

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