AMA Journal of Ethics®

Illuminating the art of medicine

Journal of Ethics Header

AMA Journal of Ethics®

Illuminating the art of medicine

AMA Journal of Ethics. April 2017

This month in Journal of Ethics

Moral Psychology and “Difficult” Clinician-Patient Relationships

Most clinicians have encountered patients they might label as “difficult.” But clinicians’ attitudes and intentions are also critical moral psychological contributors to when and how patient-clinician relationships go wrong. Social, cultural, and environmental factors also influence the quality and therapeutic capacity of patient-clinician relationships. This issue considers possible origins of “difficult” as a label and how it disadvantages patients. Some contributors reiterate the importance of nurturing virtues such as compassion and empathy in clinical practice. Others suggest what it means for clinicians to make good on their professional obligations to try to repair damaged patient-clinician relationships. Beliefs and biases can shape patients’ and clinicians’ perceptions of each other’s communication and behaviors and are particularly important to evaluate from an ethics perspective when clinical encounters don’t go well.