To the Editor: I congratulate Haslam on his excellent overview of the role of empathy in medicine.1 He rightly reminds us that empathy is not vague or ill defined; rather, its presence improves clinical outcomes, and it can be both learned and lost. I would go further and argue that empathy is not an optional extra but a clinical competence essential for sound medical practice, no matter what our specialty. All clinical practice requires a doctor–patient relationship, the core skill of which is empathy.
- 1. Haslam N. Humanising medical practice: the role of empathy [editorial]. Med J Aust 2007; 187: 381-382. <MJA full text>
- 2. Balint M. The doctor, his patient, and the illness. 2nd ed. Edinburgh: Churchill Livingstone, 1986.
- 3. Rosin U. [Balint groups: concepts, research and results] [German]. Volume 3 in the series: Heigl-Evers A, editor. The Balint group. Berlin/Heidelberg: Springer, 1989.
- 4. Köhle K, Obliers R, Koerfer A, et al. [Evaluation of the developmental effects of a Balint group: a multimethod approach] [German]. Psychosom Psychosozial Med 1995; 1: 6-16.
- 5. Kjeldmand D, Holmström I, Rosenqvist U. Balint training makes GPs thrive better in their job. Patient Educ Couns 2004; 55: 230-235.
- 6. Mandel A, Maoz B, Berger M, Narde Y. An evaluation of Balint and Balint-like groups. Proceedings of the 12th International Balint Congress; 2001 Oct 3-7; Portoroz, Slovenia.
Publication of your online response is subject to the Medical Journal of Australia's editorial discretion. You will be notified by email within five working days should your response be accepted.