This important books seeks to restore empathy to medical practice: to demonstrate how important it is for doctors to listen to their patients and to experience and understand what their patients are feeling. The treatment of medical illness today depends much more on science and technology than on the physician's ability to listen, comfort, and prescribe. Medicine is not only increasingly technical but also increasingly involved with legal, governmental, and insurance constraints on patient care, and this state of affair has done much to distance physicians from their patients.
The book--which includes essays by physicians, philosophers, and a nurse--is divided into three parts: one part deals with how empathy is weakened or lost during the course of medical education and suggests how to remedy this; another describes the historical and philosophical origins of empathy and provides arguments for and against it; and a third section offers compelling accounts of how physicians' empathy for their patients has affected their own lives and the lives of others in their care. Medicine, assert most of these authors, is both science and narrative, reason and intuition. Empathy underlies the qualities of the humanistic physician and must frame the skills of all professionals who care for patients.