Cancer Docs Shy Away from Empathy: Study

But helping cope with existential questions is key, say experts
By Matt Cantor,  Newser User
Posted Sep 23, 2008 11:09 AM CDT
Empathy is key for oncologists, says an expert.   (Shutterstock)
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(Newser) – When it comes to cancer, a doctor’s ability to empathize with a patient is paramount, experts say —but a new study finds that physicians aren't feeling patients' pain, HealthDay reports. “Physicians only responded to 10% of empathic opportunities, and when patients raised existential concerns, physicians tended to shift more to biomedical responses,” said the study’s author.

Many doctors are more comfortable with concerns they can fix, like the need for more medication or trouble getting an appointment. But “for cancer care, if you're not able to form a close tie with your patient and improve their quality of life, then there's a real question as to what you are doing,” said a doctor.