Frederic W. Platt, MD
To the Editors: Howard Spiro gives a touching description of the human concern of one person for another and its importance in medicine (1). I think, however, that he mistakes medical student enthusiasm for empathy and misplaces its locus in our feelings instead of in our intellect.
Do medical students come full of empathy only to lose it as they become physicians, as Dr. Spiro suggests? Surely not. They come imbued with romantic illusions and often real humanity but are seldom skilled at empathy. Placing empathy within the zone of feelings confuses empathy with sympathy, the vicarious experiencing of another's
Platt FW. Empathy: Can It Be Taught?. Ann Intern Med. ;117:700–701. doi: 10.7326/0003-4819-117-8-700_2
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Published: Ann Intern Med. 1992;117(8):700-701.
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