Clinical sympathy: the important role of affectivity in clinical practice

Medicine, Health Care and Philosophy 22 (4):499-513 (2019)
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Abstract

Bioethics has begun to see the revaluation of affects in medical practice, but not all of them, and not necessarily in the sense of affects as we know them. Empathy has been accepted as important for good medical practice, but only in a way that strips it of its affectivity and thus prevents other affects, like sympathy, from being accepted. As part of a larger project that aims at revaluing the importance of affectivity in medical practice, the purpose of this paper is to develop a clinical sympathy that can serve as a trainable skill for medical professionals. While everyday sympathy may be problematic as a professional skill for physicians, this does not imply that sympathy should be entirely rejected. As a natural part of our moral psychology, sympathy is an intersubjective affect that aids in our interactions with others and our decision-making abilities. I present here a theory of clinical sympathy as an affective response to patients, in which physicians are both attuned to their affective response and understand how their affects are influencing their beliefs and judgments. In this way, clinical sympathy serves as a trainable skill that can aid physicians in their interactions with their patients.

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Carter Hardy
Worcester State University

Citations of this work

Humor and sympathy in medical practice.Carter Hardy - 2020 - Medicine, Health Care and Philosophy 23 (2):179-190.
Disenchantment and clinical ethics.Henk ten Have & Bert Gordijn - 2019 - Medicine, Health Care and Philosophy 22 (4):497-498.

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