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[Perspectives] Examining empathy

Empathy has become a hackneyed term in medicine. It’s generally understood that a physician’s ability to sense and understand the feelings, thoughts, and experiences of patients is valuable in clinical encounters, but questions remain. Is it always beneficial for doctors to feel and display empathy? What happens when doctors and patients have different expectations about how and when empathy is expressed? Can empathy really be taught and learned in medical schools? Such questions will never yield to quick and easy answers.