Human Exceptionalism

Medical Students “Lose Empathy for Patients During Med School” and “Support Assisted Suicide”

There are two stories that, if true, may be causally linked. First, the AMA News is reporting that medical students lose empathy for their patients during the course of medical school. From the story:

It only takes a year to start draining empathy from future physicians, according to a study of medical students in the March issue of Academic Medicine. But empathy is a key quality medical schools should promote, experts said, because it makes for better physicians…

Communication experts said the study underscores other research on the value of empathy in the physician-patient relationship. They said the erosion of compassion that begins in medical school is the start of a career-long battle for physicians as pressure to become increasingly efficient squeezes out time for building relationships with patients.

Perhaps that would explain why, according to the assisted suicide advocacy group Compassion and Choices (formerly the Hemlock Society), a medical student organization supports assisted suicide. From its Web site:

The American Medical Student Association renewed its support for aid in dying by updating its current position on the practice and adopting new policy.

The progressive group of more than 68,000 physicians-in-training joins the American Medical Women’s Association in leading the nation’s medical professionals toward respecting patient wishes with regard to end-of-life care. The student association first adopted a supportive aid-in-dying policy in the mid 1990’s. The new policy, approved at the group’s March convention, is similar to the one adopted by AMWA in 2007.

Yes, this makes sense. As practiced in Oregon, once the lethal prescription is written, the doctor need have nothing further to do with the patient or the suicide death.