Michael SteinNov 22, 2022
A Doctor's Notes on Empathy
University of North Carolina Press 2022
We will all be patients sooner or later. And when we go to the doctor, when we're hurting, we tend to think in terms of cause and condemnation. We often look for relief not only from physical symptoms but also from our self-blame. We want from our doctors kindness under any of its many names: empathy, caring, compassion, humanity. We look for safety and forgiveness. But we forget that doctors, too, are often in need of forgiveness―from their patients and from themselves. No doctor enters the medical profession expecting to be unkind or to make mistakes, but because of the complexity of our current medical system and because doctors are human, they often find themselves acting much less kindly than they would like to.
Drawing on his work as a primary care physician and a behavioral scientist, Michael Stein artfully examines the often-conflicting goals of patients and their doctors. In those differences, Stein recognizes that kindness should not be a patient's forbidden or unrealistic expectation. Accidental Kindness: A Doctor’s Notes on Empathy (UNC Press, 2022) leaves us with new knowledge of, and insights into, what we might hope for and what might go wrong, or right, in the most intimate clinical moments.
Rachel Pagones is an acupuncturist, educator, and author. She was chair of the doctoral program in acupuncture and Chinese medicine at Pacific College of Health and Science in San Diego before moving to the UK in 2021.