ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

Doctors: Empathy vs Emotional Attachment

Updated on September 9, 2010
Should doctors be empathic towards patients? Can they be empathic without being emotionally attached?
Should doctors be empathic towards patients? Can they be empathic without being emotionally attached?

“Empathy is the capacity to think and feel oneself into the inner life of another person.”

Empathy is the core of a good physician-patient relationship. Knowing and understanding the feelings of patients is found to improve certain aspects in the process of treatment. For this reason, being empathic is emphasized in the medical field. Having empathic ties with patients is found to increase patient satisfaction, physician satisfaction, improved therapeutic relationships, and overall improved clinical outcomes. Empathy training programs are being conducted to allow medical students and professionals learn and practice this ability.

The Downside of Empathy

However, some assert that empathy must be discouraged in the medical profession. They say that doctors at all times must maintain a neutral disposition in the workplace. Being empathic towards patients is not advisable because this may possibly hamper the delivery of quality medical care. The simple sharing of feelings between doctor and patient makes both parties vulnerable and may bring upon negative outcomes.

Some people believe though that being empathic is different from being emotionally attached. Humans are naturally altruistic beings. It is in our nature to feel concern for the welfare of other people. But some claim that it is possible to understand others’ feelings and yet be emotionally distant at the same time.

Having Too Much Empathy

Medical professionals should avoid emotional attachments as this may affect their sound judgment and focus. Doctors who get emotionally attached to patients may consequently make rash decisions regarding the patient’s treatment. This may then possibly increase errors in the medical practice and also increase hazards to the patient. Moreover, being emotionally attached is not good to the medical professional as well because this results to physical and psychological distress and fatigue.

Even if empathy may seem natural to people, some medical professionals claim that they do not seem to have this ability. Whatever their nature may be, empathy must still be encouraged among doctors considering the fact that its presence in the medical field brings improvement. Like in all other situations though, the saying “too much of something is bad” also applies in this case. It does not necessarily mean then that doctors must be cold and numb towards their patients and only make contact with when treating them using medical instruments. What should be avoided is having too much empathy which results to emotional attachment. Medical practitioners must bear in mind to keep their emotions under control to maintain objectivity and professionalism in the workplace.


    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment
    • profile image


      9 years ago

      I think that doctors who are empathetic without emotional attachment, make the best doctors. The reason being is that they are able to put themselves in their patients situation and perceive the world and in this case, pain from their point of view. It is true that from a doctors perspective, that having sympathy or an emotional connection with a patient has the potential to cloud of doctors thoughts when making decisions about medical treatment options. Have you not thought why doctors are not allowed to treat their relatives and close relations? Its because if personal relationships are involved, the doctors feel more pressure, tension. This ultimately leads to emotional fatigue. Because doctors are also humans, when doctors are stressed, it calls for a higher chance of error. That is why we should be able to be empathetic enough to make the best objective decision when treating patients, but not emotionally attached that it can potentially put the patients health are more risk.


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
    ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)