Compathy or Physical Empathy: Implications for the Caregiver Relationship
- Cite this article as:
- Morse, J.M., Mitcham, C. & van Der Steen, W.J. Journal of Medical Humanities (1998) 19: 51. doi:10.1023/A:1024988002129
In this article a case is made for the importance of a previously overlooked phenomenon, physical empathy orcompathy,defined as the physical manifestation of caregiver distress that occurs in the presence of a patient in physical pain or distress. According to the similarity of a caregiver's response to the original symptoms, there can be four types of compathetic response: identical, initiated, transferred, and converted. Controlling for the compathetic response may involve narrowing one's focus and/or changing caregiver attitudes. Finally, we argue that while the compathetic response may be beneficial to the caregiving relationship, enabling the provision of appropriate and adequate humane treatment and care, the caregiver must at times shield against the compathetic response in order to provide care.