The Doctor cares about his patients. His cleaning lady, Barbara, who is also probably his closest friend, probably knows more about him than anyone. Whereas he keeps a professional distance with his patients, he tells Barbara the story of staying up with a teething baby. He does so not because he can ease the baby’s pain, but because staying up with her offers the baby comfort – the only comfort the Doctor has to give.
In other words, the Doctor is nurturer. He doesn’t like to see his patients in pain, and although he doesn’t have the power to magically make everyone better, it’s pretty clear that he is honest when he claims that he wants to do the best for the people he treats.
Dorota’s husband is one of his gravely-ill patients; she is also his neighbor. He recognizes her as the woman that ran over his dog a couple of years ago. Nevertheless, he doesn’t seem to hold a grudge about that. He has compassion for what she’s going through, and he offers her compassion – although he also doesn’t want her to take advantage of his kindness.
Dorota wants answers that the Doctor cannot provide; she would like to know whether or not her husband will recover from his illness. All the Doctor can really tell her is that the prognosis doesn’t look promising. Is his method of response appropriate? Should the Doctor do more to comfort Dorota, or should he simply maintain his professional distance?
“Compassion automatically invites you to relate with people because you no longer regard people as a drain on your energy.” – Chogyam Trungpa