From the above, it should be clear that emotions play an expanded role within bioethics and within the moral practices of healthcare professionals. Emotional sensitivity is important for discerning the complexity of situations and for appreciating the competing needs and interests of various parties. A simple matter of noticing a patient's distress or displeasure, perhaps by attending to her facial expressions and bodily gestures, could figure importantly in assessing a case. But by the same token, it is important to communicate emotions and not just record those of others. Conveying compassion to a patient can be a significant part of therapeutic treatment and, in general, be an important part of establishing a relationship in which medical counsel can be trusted and followed. Again, emotions figure in deliberation of choices. Compassion toward a patient can ground a reason for telling a patient the true nature of her condition in a tone that respects the patient's fragile, emotional state. The relevant choice a caretaker faces may not be whether to withhold or not withhold the truth, but rather how to tell the truth in a way that respects both a patient's autonomy and feelings. It is here that healthcare providers' own feelings of compassion and sympathy can importantly ground the specific choices she makes. Finally, healthcare providers, as morally responsible agents, need to have ready access to their own emotions, so that emotions help rather than hinder effective care. In cases, for example, in which fears and prejudice cloud more circumspect judgment, healthcare providers must recognize such fears and prejudice as emotional impediments standing in the way of delivering quality care. In general, a reflective stance toward one's own emotions becomes an important part of caring for others.


SEE ALSO: Care; Compassionate Love; Conscience; Grief and Bereavement; Life, (Quality of; Narrative; Pain and Suffering; Psychoanalysis and Dynamic Therapies; Women, Historical and Cross-CulturalPerspectives

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