Lead Article – February 2020


How Important is Empathy?


Orthopaedic Surgeons are sometimes criticised for being harsh, aggressive and lacking in soft emotions. Unfortunately, some of that criticism is true. Personalities are usually moulded and set well before Orthopaedic Surgeons graduate and move into private practice. Little can be done to alter the persona.

Conversely, plaintiffs are often unhappy, aggrieved, in pain and anxious. Empathising with their circumstance is more than reasonable and in fact, is probably mandatory. After all, we are all humans. Expressing sympathy, behaving courteously and proceeding with care and caution are all advisable.

Some caution however should be exercised. It would be unwise to have empathy as being supportive of the claimant’s quest for compensation. Empathy can be expressed without commenting upon liability or causation. I have previously referred to the challenge I set myself whenever a plaintiff arrives for a medicolegal assessment. Often, rage is visible and palpable as the plaintiff enters the consulting room. My goal is to have them leave in a calm, relaxed and requited mood.

Empathy is one of the many tools that I employ in securing that end point.