The Complexities of Compassion in Patient Care | Medical Education and Training | JAMA Oncology | JAMA Network
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Invited Commentary
May 2015

The Complexities of Compassion in Patient Care

Author Affiliations
  • 1Department of Medicine, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, New York, New York
JAMA Oncol. 2015;1(2):183-184. doi:10.1001/jamaoncol.2014.296

The practice of medicine is an art, not a trade, a calling, not a business; a calling in which your heart will be exercised equally with your head.1(p386)

William Osler, MD, 1849-1919

The eloquent and provocative insights of the renowned physician William Osler imply that medicine cannot be viewed exclusively as a data-driven entity. Today, business is substantially intertwined with the medical system. Yet, at the core of the day-to-day care of patients, there are a myriad of human interactions. They incite an awareness of suffering in its many forms, including the physical, psychological, social, financial, and existential aspects of illness. The scientific and technological response to the anguish of illness may at times substitute for or overshadow attention to the heartfelt reaction that Osler considered so important.