Thursday, 29 April 2010


Empathy is an essential component in medical and legal practice.
Human beings have different capacity for empathy. One social study after another has shown that prejudice can lead to different treatment for different ethnic groups.
It is now established through scientific evidence from research led by Ms Jenifer Gutsell, PhD student and Assistant Professor Dr Michael Inzlicht that people have brain activity that mirrors the activity from the different race members differently.
In their experiments, subjects were watching men of different races take a drink. Brain has motor cells which mirror this activity (sympathetic) ie the brain cells of the observers become active in motor cortex mirror cells when watching a member of the same race take a drink but not so if the person belongs to a different race. Motor cortex mirror cells were less activated when watching a person from different race take a drink. In other words, the brain mirror cells do not go through the same motion of putting oneself in another person's shoes when observing the member of a different race...
This opens possibility of testing judges and doctors for racial bias in a novel way.
We do know that medical regulators in UK such as the General Medical Council have an overabundance of doctors from ethnic minorities facing disciplinary hearings. Should all the complainants take this test so that we can all see how their brains work? What about investigators? Fitness to Practice Panelists? And does the same applies to sexual bias too? Do female judges prefer male barristers to female? Plenty to research in days to come.
The hormonal levels in men and women differ for a number of different hormones. Oxytocin is one of those. Should all of those who need empathy have serum levels of oxytocin measured? Will this identify institutional psychopaths sooner rather than later?
When people arrive to work will they have to pass through the scanners in order to confirm their fitness for work like going through scanners at the airports?
What about a bunch of men judging a female doctor hounded by a bunch of men? On whose side would they be, naturally?
With improvements in science and new applications in social work and politics will some prisons close down one day like many psychiatric hospitals did?


Urgent Support for Doctors

  • Sick Doctors Trust (For those with dependency problems) 0870 444 5163
  • Doctors for Doctors 08459 200 169
  • Doctors Support line 0870 765 0001
  • NHS-Direct 08456 46 47
  • BMA Counselling Service 08459200169
  • Samaritans 08457 90 90 90
  • National Bullying Helpline 0845 22 55 787