Dehumanization in Medicine: Causes, Solutions, and Functions

Omar Sultan Haque, Adam Waytz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

244 Scopus citations


Dehumanization is endemic in medical practice. This article discusses the psychology of dehumanization resulting from inherent features of medical settings, the doctor-patient relationship, and the deployment of routine clinical practices. First, we identify six major causes of dehumanization in medical settings (deindividuating practices, impaired patient agency, dissimilarity, mechanization, empathy reduction, and moral disengagement). Next, we propose six fixes for these problems (individuation, agency reorientation, promoting similarity, personification and humanizing procedures, empathic balance and physician selection, and moral engagement). Finally, we discuss when dehumanization in medical practice is potentially functional and when it is not. Appreciating the multiple psychological causes of dehumanization in hospitals allows for a deeper understanding of how to diminish detrimental instances of dehumanization in the medical environment.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)176-186
Number of pages11
JournalPerspectives on Psychological Science
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 2012


  • dehumanization
  • empathy
  • health
  • medicine
  • policy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychology(all)


Dive into the research topics of 'Dehumanization in Medicine: Causes, Solutions, and Functions'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this