Research Proposal Empathy: The Fifth Bioethical Consideration

I want to explore empathy and bioethics, specifically the doctor and patient relationship. Under this relationship, I will look at specific medical issues, provide examples and use secondary sources. Bioethics is an emerging field with recent medical achievements. With new advancements in medicine, ethical questions about what people should and should not do are very relevant. Often, empathy is cast aside as people see medicine becoming more robotic and impersonal. However, I think empathy is extremely important between doctor and patient. University of Rochester’s Medical Center uses the biopsychosocial model in medical care, which empathizes a well-rounded approach to the patient, not just their physical state. Doctors address the backgrounds of patients, including their psychological, social and biological problems. I recently interviewed a doctor who prioritized listening to the patient and their needs in accordance with this model. From a secondary source, I found that there are four key bioethical considerations: autonomy, beneficence, nonmalificence (the idea of doing no harm) and justice. I will apply these four critical terms to each situation that I present. I will look at how the doctor-patient relationship fits into end of life issues, reproductive rights, genetic testing, and other bioethical issues. This connection between empathy and bioethics is relevant for this class because I want to show how many situations empathy can be used in. Empathy’s use in ethical issues is very interesting to me because it is so relevant to real-life situations.

The question I will answer is: Should empathy be the fifth bioethical consideration? I will argue that empathy is vital to a doctor-patient relationship. Even if the patient does not do what the doctor wants, the doctor must put himself in the patient’s shoes and respect the patient’s wishes, which goes hand in hand with autonomy. My answer is that empathy is so important to bioethics that I do think it should be included as the fifth ethical consideration. Adding this characteristic would completely change the field of bioethics because the emotions behind decisions would be addressed. Now, decisions are based on the patient wishes and what is best for society. However, with empathy, the emotions and reasons behind ethical decisions would be addressed, which is equally important as the decision itself.

Scholarly sources:

Charon, Rita. “Narrative Medicine: A Model for Empathy, Reflection, Profession and Trust.”      The JAMA Network, 17 October 2001. http://jamanetwork.com/journals/jama/fullarti

cle/194300. 13 November 2016. Web.

Feminist Bioethics : At the Center, on the Margins /. Edited by Jackie L. Scully, Laurel                   Baldwin-Ragaven, and Petya Fitzpatrick 1975, Johns Hopkins University Press,                 Baltimore, 2010.

Kadzielski, Mark; Weingarten, Scott; Schroder, George. “Peer Review and Practice                       Guidelines under Health Care Reform.” Whittier Law Review 16.1 (1995): 157-176.

Koch, T. “The challenge of Terri Schiavo: lessons for bioethics.” Current Controversy, 376-           378. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1734190/pdf/v031p00376.pdf

Morgan, William L., Jr., and George L. Engel. The Clinical Approach to the Patient. W. B.             Saunders Company, Philadelphia: 1969. Print.

3 thoughts on “Research Proposal Empathy: The Fifth Bioethical Consideration

  1. Question: “Should empathy be the fifth bioethical consideration?”
    I definitely think that there is enough to talk about to fill enough pages. You gave a very good background of what bioethics is, which I definitely think you should include in your paper. I’m not really familiar enough with bioethics to know if it’s debatable but from what you wrote here it sounds like there could be a counterargument that doctors should do what’s best for the patients no matter what the patients say, which makes your subject debatable. I think that you should make it clear how empathy is different from the other ethical considerations, such as autonomy.

  2. Your question is very specific, maybe a bit too narrow for a long length research assignment. However, if you can cover both positives and negatives in great depth, then the length should work out. I really like how you are analyzing the nearby hospital! That is so cool, not only because it is close by, but because it will be a great resource that is so accessible! I think that it should be easy to find many sources on doctor patient relationships, however I don’t really see your topic being too debatable.

  3. Your question is clear “should empathy be the fifth bioethical consideration?” and I think it is great! I am excited to read this (we share this personal interest in bioethics, so I cannot wait to read your essay).

    One thing, you definitely have more background in bioethics than most, so be sure to define terms (even bioethics) so readers can clearly follow your argument.

    I think it would be useful to find support for the four bioethical considerations independently of the fifth-empathy- to support your position that empathy is valuable enough to be added to the existing list. Also, you may want to find positions arguing for the exclusion of empathy for use as another counterargument.

    I LOVE that you included information from our very own URMC. It is amazing that you went above and beyond to interview someone over there and you should definitely include dialogue or information from this interview in your essay. We can see first-hand the pros and cons of the model used at URMC, so it would be cool to add in these directly observed examples. I think this is going to be an incredible essay.

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