Cookies on this website
We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. If you click 'Continue' we'll assume that you are happy to receive all cookies and you won't see this message again. Click 'Find out more' for information on how to change your cookie settings.
The Conversation logo

A doctor friend – let’s call her Anne – was teaching three smart medical students who were told to diagnose a woman complaining of nonspecific pain and anxiety. After 20 minutes of questions, the students wrote seven pages of notes and recommended two drugs: a painkiller and an antidepressant. Anne considered the students’ analysis and agreed that it was based on sound medical evidence. But something told her there was more to the story.

She sat beside the patient, asked general questions and listened carefully. After a few minutes, the woman broke down in tears and told her about a personal tragedy involving a family member. After some comforting, the woman’s tears, shoulder pain and anxiety went away. Anne’s dose of empathy cured the woman, without the need of resorting to drugs. This is an important consideration, given that even relatively mild painkillers may contribute to the opioid crisis as some patients subsequently seek stronger and stronger drugs.

Read the full article on The Conversation website, written by Jeremy HowickSenior Researcher & Director, Oxford Empathy Programme in the Nuffield Department of Primary Care Health Sciences. 

Oxford is a subscribing member of The ConversationFind out how you can write for The Conversation.

Similar stories

Peter Horby receives prestigious award for outstanding service to public health

The Faculty of Public Health (FPH) has awarded its prestigious Alwyn Smith Prize to Professor Sir Peter Horby (Nuffield Department of Medicine) for 2020/2021 in recognition of his outstanding service to public health as a global leader in epidemic science.

Six new Fellowships announced as part of Oxford-Bristol Myers Squibb Fellowships Programme

The Oxford - Bristol Myers Squibb (BMS) Fellowships Programme continued to demonstrate significant progress over the last year, despite the challenges associated with the global pandemic, including restricted lab access and work from home guidance. Today, we are pleased to announce six new Oxford-BMS Fellowships for 2021.

Researchers set out steps to address mental health effects of the pandemic on young people

Researchers have outlined 14 steps that schools, mental health services and policymakers can take to help children and young people whose mental health has been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Anti-cancer drug derived from fungus shows promise in clinical trials

A new industry-academic partnership between the University of Oxford and biopharmaceutical company NuCana as found that chemotherapy drug NUC-7738, derived from a Himalayan fungus, has 40 times greater potency for killing cancer cells than its parent compound.

Professor Trish Greenhalgh Highly Commended in the O²RB Excellence in Impact Awards 2021

Congratulations to Professor Trish Greenhalgh (Nuffield Department of Primary Care Health Sciences) who has been Highly Commended in the O²RB Excellence in Impact Awards 2021.

No benefit of convalescent plasma for critically ill COVID-19 patients

A large study of over 2000 COVID-19 patients has found that giving critically ill patients blood plasma from recovered COVID-19 patients did not significantly reduce deaths, or the need for intensive care support such as being put on a ventilator machine.