Accepted Paper:

Is some training worse than no training? The problem of empathy in multi-cultural care  

Author:

David Napier (University College, London)

Paper short abstract:

This paper examine the consequences of cultural sensitivity training courses for clinical care-givers in ethnically diverse settings. The paper outlines some dangers of under-training clinicians, and asks whether such courses do more harm than good.

Paper long abstract:

This paper examine the consequences of empathic cultural sensitivity training courses for clinical care-givers in ethnically diverse settings. The paper outlines some dangers of under-training clinicians, and asks whether such courses do more harm than good. Using data collected from several years of work with medical and pre-medical students, and with medical associations attempting to introduce cultural sensitivity training for clinicians, the paper argues that the kinds of generalizations about culture that clinicians are drawn to on short courses actually introduce new problems to clinical encounters that perpetuate stereotypical behaviors. In many cases the very assumptions about culture and ethnicity that we strive to overcome are reintroduced and misused in clinical situations where training course in cultural sensitivity lead clinicians to make generalizations about how culture influences illness behavior. Examples from research conducted in the United States is compared to problems of clinical practice in multi-cultural settings in the UK. Alternative methods for training physicians that do not involve such generalizations are recommended, though there is little evidence that such changes in educational practice will be implemented in the near future.

Panel W014
From medical pluralism to therapeutic plurality: medical anthropology and the politics of diversity, knowledge, and experience from multiple perspectives