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The Empathic Physician-Reply

William Zinn, MD
Arch Intern Med. 1994;154(1):106. doi:10.1001/archinte.1994.00420010142018.
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I appreciate Jensen's supportive comments.

The questions he asks are difficult, with no clear answers in the literature. The original German word for empathy was die Einfühlung, which means literally "feeling into." This certainly implies some level of affective sharing although, in many cases, it may be quite muted. I think the more important aspect of empathy, as I have viewed it in my essay, is in knowing the experience of another, which comes from experience, fantasy, and emotion.

There is always a concern about burnout among physicians who are too affectively close to their patients. I think burnout is more likely a result of the economic, administrative, and time pressures on the physician and is an inverse function of the richness of his/her life outside of medicine. I have tried to make the case that being empathic will actually improve professional durability because, in most cases, it will allow


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