Partially Misplaced Sympathy: Should the Doctor Get a Little?
To extend the discussion of the role of physician apology in the doctor-patient/family relationship, I would like to bring up another issue which is related.
Should all the sympathy be offered only to the patient or family who have experienced or suffered the results of a medical error or the failure, despite efforts by both the physician and the patient, to attain a cure? If so, considering the fact that the physician is an integral part of the relationship, is human, has feeling and conscience, that limiting all the sympathy to the patient or family, is in reality misplacing some of the sympathy. Shouldn’t some of it be directed toward the physician?
The public should not assume that physicians are not emotionally involved in the symptoms and course of a patient’s illness. Physicians are very much involved in the need to feel that have contributed to the patient’s well-being, to support their own feelings for professional self-confidence, to promote their own professional work to other patients, to avoid personally damaging incidents leading to malpractice suits or loss of license to practice. Even beyond these ego centered reasons, there are the humanistic feelings of empathy if not simple sympathy for their patient.
If yours or a family member’s disease did not end happily or the doctor made an error in judgment or technique, would you find that you could transfer some of the sympathy offered by others to you—to your doctor? ..Maurice.
Graphic: Photograph taken by me on 12-26-2008 at Descanso Gardens, La Cañada Flintridge, California.