Can a doctor who has a headache disorder understand — and treat — your illness better than one who doesn’t? Is shared experience necessary for empathy?
“How could I possibly understand or help her, she seemed to be asking, if I had not personally experienced her pain?
question caught me by surprise and made me pause. O.K., I’ll admit it.
I’m a cheerful guy who’s never really tasted clinical depression. But
along the way I think I’ve successfully treated many severely depressed
“Is shared experience really necessary for a physician
to understand or treat a patient? I wonder. After all, who would argue
that a cardiologist would be more competent if he had had his own heart
attack, or an oncologist more effective if he had had a brush with cancer?
course, a patient might feel more comfortable with a physician who has
had personal experience with his medical illness, but that alone
wouldn’t guarantee understanding, much less good treatment.”