Op-Comic: Is AI more empathetic than your doctor?

A doctor breaks difficult news to a dying patient's relative. "I know this must be hard for you," he says as she sobs.
The scene is a patient-doctor role-play. Medical educators try to teach doctors effective and compassionate communication.
Medicine taught many doctors how to turn off our empathy switches for procedural effectiveness, efficiency or survival.


Sometimes we need to flip the switch off. But when we forget how to turn it back on, we struggle to connect with patients.
I wasn't surprised to hear that AI system ChatGPT recently bested us in a test of empathetic communication.
When nearly 63% of doctors report signs of burnout, consistently feeling emotional connection with patients seems unlikely.
But if the real purpose of empathy is to alert us to a person in need, then I welcome the help of AI or anything that helps.
Maybe AI can help me find the right words or open my eyes to a diagnosis. Ultimately it can't replace human presence.


A list of sources with an illustration of code and emojis under it

Nathan Gray is an assistant professor of medicine at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and an artist who draws comics on medical topics. @NathanAGray

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