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WMA president wants docs to empathise with patients

 Rohit Shishodia
In a significant message for young doctors, Dr Miguel Jorge, President, World Medical Association (WMA), has said that doctors and medical students need to practice empathy while caring for and treating patients.

In his inaugural presidential address at WMA’s annual Assembly in Tbilisi, Georgia, Dr Jorge said that medical students and physicians are becoming so exposed to the science of medicine that they are forgetting the emotional needs of patients.

He further added that most of the students choose the medical profession because they want to help people who suffer. But studies have revealed that when they left medical school, they were usually less sensitive to the patient’s needs than when they started.

Dr Jorge said that the possible reason for becoming less sensitive towards patients is that students, during their medical education, are more and more exposed to the biological nature of illnesses, rather than to the social environment surrounding their patients and the development of diseases. They also are not adequately taught to take into consideration the emotional aspects of those they are assisting.

Dr. Jorge who is also the director of the Brazilian Medical Association and Associate Professor of Psychiatry at the Federal University of São Paulo, said that a good physician needs to be able to put him or herself in the place of their patients, trying to feel as they feel, in order to better understand their needs.

He pointed out that in medical care, it is as essential to have empathy as it is to be able to examine the patient from the outside. “We all hear that medicine is both science and art but, in the last few decades, the practice of medicine is more and more reflecting an emphasis just on its scientific nature,” he added.

He explained that a competent physician is not a good mechanic of the human body, but someone who equally combines technical excellence with being close to their patients, respecting their dignity, and showing them empathy and compassion.

Dr. Jorge suggested that physicians have to learn how to use the new tools provided by the progress of medical science and developments such as social media to improve the physician-patient relationship and not allow themselves to move away from communicating with their patients.

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