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

Research programme tackling COVID-19 variants of concern receives funding boost

A gift from the Red Avenue Foundation will enable the expansion of a major research programme aimed at rapidly identifying and interrogating emerging COVID-19 variants.

Phase I trial begins of new vaccine against the Plague

Researchers at the University of Oxford today launched a Phase 1 trial to test a new vaccine against plague.

New therapeutic targets identified in the treatment of psoriatic arthritis

Researchers identify two inflammatory-driving proteins, osteopontin and CCL2, highly expressed in psoriatic arthritis joints.

Treatment choice for rotator cuff disorders could create efficiency and savings for the NHS

A trial that evaluated the clinical and cost effectiveness of physiotherapy treatments for rotator cuff disorders suggests cost savings can be made while maintaining positive patient outcomes.

Neutrophil molecular wiring revealed: transcriptional blueprint of short-lived cells

Researchers publish the first blueprint of transcriptional factors that control neutrophil-driven inflammation in Nature Immunology.

Daily contact COVID-19 testing for students effective at controlling transmission in schools

A study by the University of Oxford has found that daily testing of secondary school students who were in contact with someone with COVID-19 was just as effective in controlling school transmission as the current 10-day contact isolation policy.