Courtesy of Paliativos Sin Fronteras/Palliative Notes Magazine 2021.
Authors: Wilson Astudillo, A. and Carmen Mendinueta, A.
“When you help someone in difficult times, civilisation really begins”. Margaret Mead
Compassion is a very important element in the care of the sick and the basis of all health care. It is simpler, and at the same time more intense than empathy itself, and invites us to try to help or mitigate the suffering of others, since it promotes an impulse, an energy when it is perceived and is accompanied by an action to diminish it. It means “suffering together or dealing with emotions from sympathy”, and is seen as the starting point for humanising medicine and making it more patient-centred. While being compassionate is not fashionable, it is what makes us truly human and connects us more with nature.
For Aurelio Arteta, “Compassion arises from the evil of others and indirectly desires their good. Pity suddenly reacts to the signs of human impotence, even if it is oriented towards recovering lost power or conquering it. Compassion does not represent an addition to duty, a surplus or exceptional capacity, but the nourishing soil of all duties and the most peremptory of moral capacities”.
For Carlos Martínez G., “Compassion is characterised by the importance of the moral and affective component over the purely material”.
It is a passion that is spontaneously directed towards the suffering of others and requires taking seriously the evil suffered by others and not trivialising it. Generosity and caring for others are psychologically incomprehensible without the motive of compassion.
Compassion has three parts: a cognitive component that encompasses attention to and evaluation of the suffering of others, and the recognition of our capacity to act in the face of the suffering of others, a behavioural component that includes the commitment and firm decision to carry out actions that help to eliminate suffering, and an emotional component that drives us to act from our inner self, generating emotional reactions that produce personal satisfaction. (a) The behavioural component includes one’s commitment and firm decision to take actions that help to eliminate suffering, and (b) the emotional component drives us to act from within, generating emotional reactions that bring us personal satisfaction.
Compassion is the founding principle and fundamental ethical attitude of the different religious traditions: Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism. Its true meaning is to put oneself on the side of the other, indeedeven, in the place of the suffering others suffering in a relationship of equality, of empathy and to take on other people’s the pain of other people as one’s own, to internalise it, even to the point of identifying with those who suffer, something that is not easy but that is necessary to try. Compassion requires actively participating in the suffering of others, thinking and looking at reality through the eyes of the victims, of the impoverished, and fighting against the causes that provoke it.
The end-of-life phase is accompanied by suffering, and those of us who care for others must know and learn to be more compassionate. It is a skill that can be trained and learned through humanistic education, such as literature and theatre, poetry, narratives or life stories, and film, which make up a mosaic of possibilities that can serve as tools to help us learn to be more compassionate.