Intended for healthcare professionals

Editorials Christmas 2016

Humanising healthcare

BMJ 2016; 355 doi: (Published 13 December 2016) Cite this as: BMJ 2016;355:i6262
  1. Robin Youngson, cofounder1,
  2. Mitzi Blennerhassett, medical writer2
  1. 1Hearts in Healthcare, PO Box 63, Raglan 3265, New Zealand
  2. 2Slingsby, UK
  1. Correspondence to: R Youngson robin{at}

We have to start by building a more compassionate society

When we are sick, injured, or facing an existential life crisis, our greatest human need is loving kindness and compassion in response to our vulnerability and suffering. One of us (MB) has previously described her first hand experience of the difference such care can make1:

In shock, I am admitted to a cancer hospital. Treatment must necessarily be aggressive. I am terrified. Will I die? I am so alone, but trying to be brave. A doctor in a white coat sits down and asks why I am there. When I tell him he encloses my hand with both of his. Instantly, I am encased in warmth, comfort, compassion.

Unconvincingly I say, “I’m not nervous.”

“That’s all right,” he replies, “I’m enjoying it!”

We both laugh. And I leave my hand there. The encounter stays with me; I revisit it whenever I need the healing touch of a human hand.

Years later I am overjoyed to tell him what his kindness meant to me. But he can never really know how much, or the depth of my gratitude.

Too …

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