Compassion, empathy and sympathy – what do they truly mean?

Another great blogger on…

Anne Malatt on Life

As a profession, medicine is beginning to be aware that we must care for the whole person, if we are to truly practise the art and science of our craft. Gone are the days when we could just stand by the bedside, pronounce the diagnosis and treatment from on high, and move on to the next person, with hardly a word being spoken by, or to, the patient. Our patients are becoming more aware, more informed, and more self-empowered when it comes to asking us for clear information about their condition. They are trying to communicate with us, and we are being asked to communicate with them. How do we respond to all this? Buzz words abound when it comes to communication – compassion, empathy, sympathy – but what do they all mean?

Some dictionary definitions

Sympathy is defined as:

  • feelings of pity and sorrow for someone else’s misfortune


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