Hospitality to Strangers: Empathy and the Physician-Patient Relationship

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Hospitality to Strangers: Empathy and the Physician-Patient Relationship

by Dorothy M. Owens

AAR Academy Series no. 100. Scholars Press, Atlanta, 1999. 163 pp. $24.95. ISBN 04885-060M.

THIS WORK is a thoughtful and philosophically grounded curriculum for teaching empathy to medical students. In a time when medical treatment and education are increasingly entangled in technical minutiae, Owens attempts to redirect the light of medicine from the glare of stainless steel to that which illumines the "sacred space" between doctor and patient.

Her attempt is not simply to draw from, but rather to seek integration of the domains of theology, psychology, and medicine in order to create a model of empathic listening. Owens engages psychotherapists Heinz Kohut, D.W. Winnicot, and Carl Rogers, and philosopher/theologians Martin Buber and Edward Farley in dialogue with ethical philosopher Emmanuel Levinas to remind us of the essential human interaction at the core of the medical transaction. This interaction is the fertile ground for true healing. Empathy, she proposes, is the means by which "the face of the stranger may reveal the face of the infinite" (p. …