Document Type


Medical Subject Headings

Clinical Medicine; Empathy; Ethics, Medical; Physician-Patient Relations; History of Medicine


Bioethics and Medical Ethics | History of Science, Technology, and Medicine | Medical Education


This essay will argue for the centrality of empathy in the doctor-patient relationship-as a core of ethically sound, responsible therapeutics. By "empathy," I intend an explicitly hermeneutic practice, informed by a reflexive understanding of patient and self. After providing an overview of the history of the concept of empathy in clinical medicine, I discuss current definitions and the use of Balint groups in residency training as a way to develop empathic competence in novice physicians.


This is the authors' final, peer-reviewed version of the manuscript as prepared for publication in: Theoretical Medicine, 1996, 17:3, 243-254. DOI 10.1007/BF00489448. Link to article on publisher's site

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Full Text for UMass via PubMed


Empathy, hermeneutics, Balint, interpretation, doctor-patient relationship, narrative, reflexivity

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