Radio programme: Empathy in medicine

BBC Radio 4 at 09:30 today, 20th December.

bbc.co.uk/programmes/b085849h

Television executive Peter Bazalgette examines empathy in doctors with Denis Pereira Gray, and the difference it makes for their patients.

Professor Sir Denis Pereira Gray was a GP for 38 years and is now Patron of the National Association for Patient Participation. He believes that humanity and empathy in medicine contributes to a better outcome for all concerned, and research evidence is piling up in support of that view. Empathy in clinical practice can be fostered through training, narrative medicine and continuity of care.

10 Replies

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  • Just turned it on...

    Thanks.

  • I do not believe that there is any empathy in medicine. I have certainly never encountered it.

    I think I must have pissed off a doctor when I was in my teens and he decided to label me as a hypochondriacal, hysterical, depressive, waste of space. (I can only guess about this based on the way I was treated - I have no proof.)

    That judgement became a nearly 45-year-long life sentence and I struggled with every damn doctor I ever met after that as a result. The fact that doctors rely on medical records that are not updated or are updated wrongly or sparsely, are incorrectly filed, that records are often updated by people who aren't doctors and they don't recognise what the important facts are, that doctors make mistakes, is never taken account of.

    So, I could tell two doctors (at separate appointments during the last five years) that I had a history of very severe endometriosis, and severe adhesions that affected my bowel, and both of them responded by rolling their eyes at me and ignoring it completely, even though it was very relevant to what I was seeing them for.

    I paid for a full copy of my GP record nearly three years ago (apart from the bits they chose not to give me and that I'm sure were there), and discovered that the reference to severe endometriosis and adhesions had been missed out of my summary record entirely, even though the evidence was there amongst the letters in my records.

    If I had committed murder or manslaughter as a young teenager I might have ended up being incarcerated for 10 years. But piss off a doctor in your teens (or at any time) and you get a life sentence of being fobbed off, insulted, and demeaned with no treatment or delayed treatment or bad treatment as routine.

  • Hmmm. When I got a copy of my medical records last year, I found on my summary that I had been labelled as "borderline personality disorder NOS" thanks to a psychiatrist's letter that had been sent after two visits back when I was 17. That's when I started to wonder whether the attitudes of various GPs had been coloured by that statement.

  • What does NOS mean?

    If you have felt that your treatment was often inadequate, you were dismissed for no obvious reason, and you couldn't understand why, then that diagnosis from your youth is quite likely to have been the cause.

  • NOS = " not otherwise specified". Labels, empty meaningless labels. It means that the psychiatrist didn't get on with 17-years old Hunny59 (which one of us wasn't a bit difficult as a teenager???) and attached a meaningless label, which has stuck.

  • I mentioned fractures to my GP, and they turned up in my online notes as NOS, with the year, which seemed weirdly specific.

  • Now, that is weird!

  • Caught some of it. Pointed out how little time GP has and we need many more to catch up with other countries. Empathy needs time to establish or is just fake.

  • I agree. How can they treat people within 10mins? The best GP I had in the last few years was always running late. I bet he was doing hours and hours of overtime and never finished his clinic on time. A part of me doesn't blame them for getting fed up and disillusioned ;(

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