– Medicine’s Missing Link –

Dr. Al Danenberg Nutritional Periodontist

April 8, 2019 [printfriendly]


EMPATHY - Medicine's Missing Link


It may come as no surprise, but conventional medicine doesn’t successfully treat all diseases. Of course, no healing modality is successful 100% of the time. Why do conventional medicine and other forms of the healing arts fail sometimes? Obviously, there are many factors. However, I believe there is one common human skill that is critical for successful outcomes. And the lack of this human factor welcomes failures in medicine?




I believe the underlying and overwhelming human factor for success in medicine is empathy. A lack of empathy by anyone on the medical and healing teams is a destructive influence. Empathy is the human missing link for successful outcomes.


Maybe all of us need to revisit the meaning of empathy. Empathy is the intangible capacity to understand and share the feelings of another. Let me emphasize: Understand and Share the Feelings!


Treatment Includes Empathy

Sick people want to get healthy. They may need specific forms of treatment to get healthy. But they always need to feel heard and understood. They require concern and compassion from healers no matter if these healers are in the conventional world of medicine or in the alternative world of medicine. Sick people require empathy from their caregivers to get healthy. People who are hurting need to believe in themselves and their ability to heal. Empathy can overcome and strengthen the state of mind in which people who are suffering find themselves.



Lack of Empathy Examples

Being in the healthcare world, I see it all the time. I witness lack of empathy from the person who takes the first phone call from a new patient. I hear it from staff members in the way they speak to patients with little concern for their wait time in the reception room. I have experienced it in the way patients are addressed when their name is called, how he or she is ushered into a room that is too cold and uncomfortable, how the doctor eventually shows up looking at a pile of papers with no eye contact with the patient.


Patients don’t know what they don’t know. They are scared. They are confused. They are hurting either physically or emotionally. They don’t know to whom to express themselves. And then they are stifled when there is no outlet for expression while in the presence of those healthcare professionals who are lacking the healing quality if empathy.



Excuses for Lack of Empathy

Lack of empathy is pervasive. Doctors of all types get into a rut. They often become mechanical in what they do day-after-day. They present countless treatment plans and provide numerous treatments to patients. They take their repetitive routines for granted – almost as a perfunctory daily duty. Treatment options are not fully discussed. Patient’s fears are not explored. Paperwork, government, and insurance companies get in the way. “It’s my way or the highway” is the attitude of many professionals in various healthcare fields.



Going Forward

Don’t get me wrong. Many health providers are empathetic, and their staffs are caring. But if there were a common denominator leading to unsuccessful medical results, empathy would be the missing link in the healing professions in my opinion.


Like anything in life, if there is a problem, then there probably is a fix. Empathy could be the most important ingredient in the delivery of successful healthcare. As a matter of fact, empathy is a human quality that all of us should use daily in all our interactions.


If empathy is not part of your equation when dealing with people, then search for a fix. There are courses you could take and books you could read. It’s not that difficult. More than half the battle is won once you realize there is a problem and know there is a potential fix.



Online Resources:

Empathy & Healthcare


Physician Empathy Training


Empathy Academy



An Epidemic of Empathy in Healthcare: How to Deliver Compassionate, Connected Patient Care That Creates a Competitive Advantage


Mindsight: Transform Your Brain with the New Science of Empathy


The Art of Empathy: A Complete Guide to Life’s Most Essential Skill






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  1. Agree wholeheartedly Dr Danenberg! I listen to Eckhart Tolle and read his books. His take on the matter is that people take on a role. The role dominates and the human interaction gets lost. One sees it all the time, cashiers do not even look at you sometimes, waiters slap the food down looking elsewhere. One can only be the change oneself.

  2. I feel your pain and frustration. I was with the same oncologist. I realized after being told that what I am trying to holistically was not going to work, that diet has nothing to do with cancer, that he was not going to treat me anymore because of my beliefs, I came home for the last time, discouraged by them and feeling very unloved. What you and I know and study is how the body heals itself. I believe deeply that God is leading me and that there is a way to heal from this disease. So why go back to a place that only makes you feel defeated and discouraged. I am going to heal completely, I know it can be done, I am witnessing your success, and others who have healed themselves of MM.
    I will not go down a path with people who insult my intelligence and truly do not care about any other way to cure cancer but their own, which irony they claim does not cure this type of cancer. I have decided that I will not do anymore traditional medicine so why go back? I can have the test run by our doctor in Charlotte and go from there.
    God bless you and you have my love and my empathy!

  3. Thank you for your message. I truly feel we have to be selfless when we work in the health field or just as a daily practice. Treat others like you would like to be treated. We have two ears, lets listen better to those that need us to hear their needs, pain, or maybe frustrations. Sometime they have great news people just want to share, but they hold back. I like to give my attention to those who want to say anything to me. Thank God I do.

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