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instructions: Read the discussion by Taylor and respond to the thread. You don’t need any outside sources.


Post replies to the threads one who chose at least one work that you did not chose. Make sure your replies are at least 200 words in length. Do you agree or disagree with student. Were their reasons the same as yours or different? What do you think accounts for the difference?

I did not chose Mercy By Richard Selzer, so you can respond to what Taylor is writing about that writing.

Please let me know if you have any questions.

Final Essay

Number of replies: 0

Empathy In Literary Works

The importance of empathy in today’s world is seen by how the lack of it has destroyed humanity. The world we live in now is crumbling away and people have no desire to place themselves in a fellow man’s shoes and show them kindness. This world is cruel, and the lack of empathy is what has created it. With empathy brings caring, selflessness, kindness, love of a fellow human being all the things we need now more than ever. The literary works I chose that are great examples of empathy are Toenails by Richard Selzer, Letting Go: What should medicine do when it can’t save your life? By Atul Gawande, and Mercy by Richard Selzer.

Toenails By Richard Selzer

I chose Toenails by Richard Selzer because I can relate to needing time off from work but never actually being able to step away from the role of a caregiver. I feel empathy for the doctor when he uses his Wednesdays off for relaxation time at the library and ends up finding a friend who in the end needs his services. It seems like even when healthcare professionals are off work, their job is never done due to their compassion for others. I also chose this story because I can understand the position of the older people in the story who are retired and hanging out at the library not thinking about their declining health. I feel empathy for Neckerchief in his older age being too proud to ask for help. He walks with a limp yet the doctor has to really interrogate him to find out what is wrong with him. It takes empathy and compassion to really try to help someone who may be pretending like everything is ok because they don’t want to bother others with their problems.

I think sometimes as humans we are so busy in our everyday lives; we don’t stop to think about what our fellow man may be going through. A simple, “How are you feeling today”, could be the difference in some one enduring another day with a problematic health issue vs giving them the opportunity to speak up and tell someone about what is going on with their health. If each person could be just a little more concerned and caring towards each other, it would make for a better world. And I have found that patients are more likely to tell you what is wrong with them if they feel like you are truly concerned about their well-being.

Letting Go by Atul Gawande

I chose Letting Go by Atul Gawande due to the empathy I feel for patients diagnosed with a terminal illness and not wanting to except death is near. I have worked with many patients who have been in the same position and even though they may be 80 years old or more, most are not ready to die yet. I find that amazing that after 80 years on Earth a person can still feel like they have more life to live. Of course, if it is a younger person, I can understand the lack of acceptance and the willingness to try all treatment options for their condition. I also feel empathy for the doctors who must tell the patients their terminal diagnosis or who must recommend hospice. It must be very difficult to have to tell someone they are dying, or their disease is not curable. I have had the hospice talk with many patients and they’re family and it never gets any easier. You’re not sure how the patient or family truly feels about dying until they believe the end is near. I feel like the more physicians can explain the benefits and positive attributes of hospice to patients and their family, the more they will be willing to get on board and understand how it can prolong the quality of their life. I also believe the more empathetic they can be with them the more open to the discussion the patient and loved ones will be.

Mercy By Richard Selzer

I chose Mercy by Richard Selzer because I feel empathy for the doctor in wanting to relieve his patients’ pain and suffering. The patient was experiencing horrendous pain and his family was begging for the doctor to do something about it. Physicians are caught between a rock and a hard place sometimes because they are bound by laws and must follow the rules of medicine when dealing with patients. Doctors are meant to do no harm, even if the patient is suffering. Just because a family member requests a doctor to end a patient’s misery doesn’t mean the doctor can legally do it, no matter how much he may agree and want to. I also feel empathy for the patient’s family. They see their family member lying in bed, in pain, with a terminal illness and will do anything for that family member even if it’s to request murder. Any act of ending a person’s life by unnatural causes is essentially murder. It must feel awful to watch a loved one suffer with no way of ending the suffering.

In this scenario by showing empathy towards the patient and his suffering may allow him to not feel so alone. It is also crucial to show empathy towards the family members because in these situations they are desperate, distraught, and will be willing to do anything to help their loved one. As healthcare professionals just being present and patient can ease their worries and concerns.


With empathy comes great understanding and caring for others. In healthcare, empathy is an important tool we must use when working with patients and their loved ones. Seeing a physician or nurse can be a very scary time because most people see them in times of illness or tragedy or failing health. Of course, there are many examples of great outcomes but usually empathy is needed during the hard and trying times. With these literary works you can see how I chose ones dealing with patient interactions involving death because I feel like as a nurse that is one of the hardest things to talk about with patients and family members, but it is also a common discussion. We must be able to exude empathy when talking about these things because one way we can help our patients is by informing them of options that can give them a quality of life they deserve. And if they won’t even listen to us then how are we able to help them.

By showing empathy towards patients and family members, they will be more likely to tell you things they normally wouldn’t have, allowing you to treat them faster than if they kept it to themselves. They will be more trusting of the process and possibly make quicker decisions on treatment options when time is not a friend. Empathy will allow the healthcare professionals to know more about their patients and gain their trust and build a great relationship. I know that using empathy in my everyday work is a given and I cannot be a great nurse without it. Many times, I could have missed a symptom or complication if my patient hadn’t felt like I cared enough to tell me what was really going on with them. They know I will go above and beyond to help them and that is all because of the empathy I show while taking care of them.