Narrative Medicine: Doctor´s Empathy

1437 Words6 Pages
Patients have long lamented that their doctors do not truly listen to them. A new emerging discipline, Narrative Medicine, seeks to rectify this problem by teaching both medical students and doctors alike the value of empathy and through the use of literature how to listen, dissect, and reconstruct patient’s narratives. Although Rebecca Elizabeth Garden and Rita Charon, agree on many aspects of Narrative Medicine, Garden tends be more critical and points out more flaws in her work entitled “The Problem of Empathy: Medicine and the Humanities,” whereas Charon cites the numerous benefits of Narrative Medicine in “Narrative Medicine: Honoring the Stories of Illness.” Although Narrative Medicine is beneficial because it allows doctors to develop empathy, one should also realize the many potential pitfalls and complications that arises.
In the medical community there appears to be a divide between disease-centered care and patient-centered care. Both Charon and Garden, readily acknowledge this. Charon explains how although doctors can boast in their “impressive technical progress,” and “their ability to eradicate once fatal infections,” doctors often lack the abilities to recognize the pain of their patients and to extend empathy (3). Charon further adds that “medicine practiced without a genuine and obligating awareness of what patients go through [empathy] may fulfill its technical goals, but it is an empty medicine, or, at best, half a medicine” (5). Often, doctors fail to remember that their patients are more than just a person with cancer or a congenital heart defect — they are human, a whole person with dreams, aspirations, and fears. According to Charon, “scientifically competent medicine alone cannot help a patient grapple w...

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... opinion of others too empathetic. After tirelessly fighting with an insurer over the phone, Dr. Schiff handed a desperate patient the $3 needed for her pain pills. This is not Dr. Schiff’s first act of kindness. His past “infractions include helping patients get jobs, giving them jobs himself, offering them ride homes, extending the occasional dinner invitation and, yes, once handing over a computer.” Dr. Schiff believes that he is not crossing the border as Dr. Seldin’s borders just contain “technical tasks.” Dr. Schiff draw’s his borders so he can help his’s patient’s health by helping the whole patient.
While Charon whole-heartedly endorses Narrative Medicine, and narrative knowledge as the means to radical change of the practice of medicine, Garden takes a few steps back to objectively assess the issue. Garden goes all the way back to the eighteenth century to
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