“Could a greater miracle take place than for us to look through each other’s eyes for an instant?” — Henry David Thoreau

Humanism in health care reminds us that illness and recovery, living and dying, are an integral part of the whole human experience. Every person throughout the health system – caregiver and patient alike – is first and foremost a human being.

It’s easy to understand that medical, and other professionals have focused on technical knowledge. This has become the norm for those steeped in the Scientific Method. They are not generally selected and trained for emotional intelligence, and in fact, still little time is spent during medical training on connecting with the patient.  The most important step in that learning is a connection between provider and patient that can increase healing and decrease time spent. We know communication skills, including active listening, to patients’ concerns, are among the qualities of a physician most desired by patients.

Humanistic health professionals care about their patients as much as they care for them. They understand that compassion can be a powerful catalyst for healing.

Humanism in healthcare recalls us to ourselves as human beings and members of society. Humanistic, healthcare leadership involves not only motivating and empowering employees, but a primary, essential focus is for leaders to create environments that support and uplift patients and their families.

E.A. Rider et al (2014) have found it useful to think of communication as three interdependent types of skills [1]:

  • Content skills—what you say.
  • Process skills— how you structure interactions, ask questions, listen and respond, relate to patients and others, use nonverbal skills/behavior, involve patients in decision making, etc.
  • Perceptual skills—what you are thinking and feeling,  your clinical reasoning and other thought processes; feelings (including what you do with them); attitudes, biases, assumptions, intentions; values and capacities (including compassion, mindfulness, integrity, respect, etc.).

The International Charter for Human Values in Healthcare
The International Charter for Human Values in Healthcare is designed to foster a movement to improve care by restoring the primacy of human values, to place them at the center, and to make values, and the communication skills necessary to demonstrate them, the foundation of every effort in healthcare. The International Charter represents an international, interprofessional, cross-cultural endeavor, engaging healthcare clinicians, educators, researchers, leaders, patients, and caregivers in the demonstration of these values in all healthcare relationships.

Charter Preamble
The International Charter for Human Values in Healthcare is a collaborative effort involving people, organizations, and institutions around the world who are working together to restore human values in healthcare. These fundamental values include the capacity for compassion, respect for persons, commitment to integrity and ethical practice, commitment to excellence, and justice in healthcare.  They embody the human dimensions of healthcare and are fundamental to the practice of compassionate, ethical and safe relationship-centered care. These values represent the overarching goals that motivate scientifically sound, effective methods of care.

We believe that fundamental human values, such as those listed above, are both essential and universal. They are fundamental values that underpin a relationship-centered approach, and can be embraced by healthcare systems around the world — across cultures, languages, professions and disciplines. They are indispensably present in every healthcare interaction.

We believe that effective and caring communication is essential to restoring human values in health care. Values are realized by and manifested in language and the interaction process. Skilled communication underpins healthcare interactions and relationships, and plays an essential role in making values visible.

We believe these core human values that define the goals and processes of health care have yet to receive the emphasis necessary to make them central to every healthcare encounter. Placing emphasis on our core values will help to solve many problems in delivery of care — ranging from excessive cost and profit to inadequate care for the less fortunate and underserved.

The Charter is meant to inspire a movement to improve care by restoring the primacy of human values, to place them at the center, and to make them the goal of every effort in healthcare.

The charter identified five fundamental categories of human values that should be present in every healthcare interaction—Compassion, Respect for Persons, Commitment to Integrity and Ethical Practice, Commitment to Excellence, and Justice in Healthcare—and categorized subvalues within each category.

They believe the following core human values should be present in and inform every healthcare interaction.

1. Compassion

Compassion should be central to human relationships. Compassion means to understand the condition of others, and to commit oneself to the healing and caring necessary to enhance health and relieve suffering. The values underlie our efforts to be compassionate.

  • Capacity for caring
  • Capacity for empathy
  • Capacity for self-awareness
  • Motivation to help, heal
  • Capacity for kindness
  • Capacity for genuineness
  • Capacity for generosity
  • Capacity for flexibility and adaptability in relationships
  • Capacity for acceptance
  • Capacity for curiosity
  • Capacity for altruism
  • Capacity for mindedness

2.  Respect for Persons 

Respect should form the basis of all of our relationships.

  • Respect for patient’s and their significant others’ viewpoints, opinions, wishes, beliefs
  • Respect for cultural, social, gender, class, spiritual, and linguistic differences
  • Respect for autonomy
  • Respect for privacy and confidentiality
  • Respect for all colleagues of the interprofessional team
  • Humility

3. Commitment to Integrity and Ethical Practice

The healing professions are built around integrity and ethical practice. These must underlie and permeate all actions in the health professions.

4. Commitment to Excellence

We must dedicate ourselves to achieving excellence in all aspects of healthcare. Without excellence, no matter how well intentioned, our efforts to heal will fall short.

5. Justice in Healthcare

We believe that healthcare professionals should embrace the values of justice in healthcare, and commit themselves to advocating for and putting these values into action.

The International Charter for Human Values in Healthcare is an initiative of the International Collaborative for Communication in Healthcare, established at Hong Kong Polytechnic University in March 2011.  This initiative has led to the establishment of the International Centre for Communication in Healthcare at Hong Kong Polytechnic University and the University of Technology, Sydney Australia with over 50 members from over 10 countries around the world.

Bronnen en noten:

[1] The International Charter for Human Values in Healthcare: An interprofessional global collaboration to enhance values and communication in healthcare  http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.pec.2014.06.017 0738-3991/ 2014 Published by Elsevier Ireland Ltd.

The health care leader as humanist; J Health Hum Serv Adm. 2009 Spring;31(4):451-65.


Charter of Compassion for Care [Internet]. Amsterdam, Holland. 2011 Feb [cited/accessed 02.06.14]. Available from: http://www.compassionforcare. com/en/charter-of-compassion-for-care.

About us. Human Values in Healthcare Forum. [Internet]. London, UK. c2012. [cited/accessed 23.06.14]. Available from: http://www.humanvaluesinhealthcare.org. [29] Puchalski


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