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Empathic Healer

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"Your agony shall be my burden."
Orion, Atlas Reactor
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A person who can heal other people's wounds by taking them onto themselves. Oftentimes when they heal someone else, they get the exact same injuries or ailments. Sometimes, though, they just get really sick or feel great pain. The point is healing others causes them to feel pain or sickness themselves, making it a real sacrifice every time they heal.

Expect there to be one point when they have to decide whether or not to heal someone with definitely fatal injuries. See also Sacrificial Revival Spell.

A Sub-Trope of Equivalent Exchange. Can sometimes be a White Mage, but doesn't have to be.

May be inverted for a more villainous equivalent — healing yourself by transferring your wounds to an enemy.


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Examples:

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    Anime and Manga 
  • Buso Renkin: The special ability of the gauntlet part Ouka Hayasaka's buso renkin Angel Gozen is to create arrows with a heart motif that, when they hit the target, transfer their wounds to her. She almost dies using this ability to prevent Kazuki and her brother Shusui from killing each other during their fight.
  • Joshua of Chrono Crusade is at least heavily implied to be like this. He wasn't ill until he got his powers, and he can't use his powers to heal himself. One of the extras on the DVDs state that this system is made to embody the virtue his power represents (Hope) — the more he uses his powers, the sicker he becomes, so the more he has to have hope for the future.
  • This seems to be the standard with characters in Hunter × Hunter who have the ability to remove curses, known collectively as exorcists. Abengane can remove one curse at a time, which is stored in a snake-like creature that then attaches itself to Abengane. The curse is suspended while in this creature, but Abengane is unable to lift any further curses, and the creature remains attached to Abengane until he performs what's needed to undo it. Hina can lift curses as well, and like Abengane, she can only do so one at a time. It manifests in her body, making her appear pregnant and significantly inhibiting her movements until the curse is lifted or the cursed person dies.
  • Tatsuya Shiba of The Irregular at Magic High School has powers that work like this. While it's implied that he could even heal someone from straight-up death, he not only feels their pain but feels it intensified (inversely proportionally) according to the amount of time he spends performing the healing. For example, if someone has been suffering for two seconds and he heals them in half a second, he feels all their pain times 4, so that he feels the full brunt of it. It's much worse for long-standing or particularly horrific injuries, and understandably no one even asks him to use this unless it's a matter of death or permanent disability and fully expects that he keep this ability hidden and out of use for fear of what it might do to have to put himself through that.
  • Surprisingly enough for a kid's show, Ojamajo Doremi has this. For this reason, healing magic is actually illegal: if a Witch tries to use it on a human or an animal, she's very liable to die. When Hazuki willingly broke the taboo to help a dying bunny and the very traumatized girl who was taking care of it, she only got sick... and that was specifically said to have happened just because the Queen was around.
  • Some hurriedly introduced Applied Phlebotinum allows Zoro of One Piece to take the pain from Luffy's injuries.
  • The end of Puella Magi Madoka Magica has the main character become this to all magical girls past, present and future, absorbing their despair into herself so that no witches would ever be born, all while costing her existence in the process. It gets reversed by Puella Magi Madoka Magica The Movie: Rebellion, though.
  • Scheris Adjani's alter power in s-CRY-ed has this as a primary ability, though it's only invoked once, when sacrificing herself in order to bring Ryuhou back to life.
  • In Violinist of Hameln, Queen Horn has such healing powers, which her daughter Flute has inherited.
  • While Himawari from ×××HOLiC doesn't innately possess this power, she does take some scars from Watanuki as the price of a wish to save his life after her bad luck and his subconscious desire to end his existence leaves him severely injured. Similarly, Doumeki loses the same amount of blood as Watanuki does in the same incident.

    Comic Books 
  • Marvel Universe:
    • This is (sometimes) how Multiple Man from X-Factor heals. A knife wound on one man is drastic but on forty is nothing. Other times, as with a hangover, it just hurts that much more. Similarly, he can safely reabsorb a critically injured dupe, but hates doing it because, well, it hurts.
    • Nightingale in Marvel: The Lost Generation has powers that work like this, and it appears that every healing takes a little more out of her. She finally dies when she has expended everything she can give.
    • The Silver Surfer can heal, but it's an Energy Donation. A minor injury isn't that big a deal, but bringing someone back from death's door leaves him incapacitated for a while afterward.
  • Ragman: The eponymous character is a walking purgatory, taking the souls of killers. They get redemption by sharing his wounds. Distributed widely enough, they remain relatively unaffected. Some souls get 'permanent' injuries. Taking on enough injuries (or giving strength to Ragman) raises the Karma level, sooner or later, a Good Afterlife results.
  • Inverted by Holden Carver a.k.a. the Conductor in Sleeper (WildStorm) — an alien artifact prevents him from feeling anything, especially pain. Any time he's injured, he can transfer the pain he would feel to others by touching them.

    Fan Fiction 
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    Film 
  • Code 8 has Nia, though it's only revealed that her Healing Hands are actually this during the climax.
  • John Coffey in The Green Mile has a variation; when he heals people, he takes their sickness and wounds inside himself, then expels them in a cloud of noxious black. It is not a pleasant experience, and if he doesn't expel it quickly, it takes a toll, but so long as he does expel it, there's no lasting damage.
  • Paul in, uh, Paul does this. He can also heal himself while he's at it, but it's exponentially more difficult with human healing.

    Jokes 
  • A hospital tests a revolutionary device that allows a mother giving birth to transfer the pain to the father. An expectant couple try it, and while the mother reports that she's not feeling any pain at all, the father says he can't feel anything either. Despite the doctors being stumped, the birth goes painlessly for both parents, and they return home... to find the milkman dead on their doorstep, an expression of absolute agony on his face.

    Literature 
  • People with yellow Spirit Stones in the Broken Sky series have this ability. To compensate for taking the wounds of others, they also have enhanced healing. Kia's amnesia from witnessing the Netherfane was healed this way.
  • Brewster of Bruiser takes on the physical and emotional injuries of anyone around him that he cares for whether he wants to or not.
  • Kane in Dennis L. McKiernan's Caverns of Socrates heals people in this manner, taking others' injuries onto himself.
  • An odd example in The Cleric Quintet — Cadderly uses this on his ally after borrowing another ally's Ring of Regeneration because it can only heal wounds suffered after the ring is put on. If he hadn't, the wounds would have killed him, making the spell of rather dubious use under any other circumstances.
  • Tiffany Aching in Discworld books learns a technique of withdrawing a patient's pain to ease their suffering. She doesn't have to take it into herself, though — she can siphon it into an inanimate object, whereupon it is transmuted into heat.
  • In An Ember in the Ashes, Helene's healing power works like this. When she sings someone's song, she takes a less severe version of their wounds or illness onto herself. Her power also allows her to heal more quickly than other people.
  • Rory Mercury does this for Youji in Gate prior to their second fight with a deadly Fire Dragon. During the battle, he gets beaten pretty badly, but it doesn't seem to slow him down much. After they finish off the dragon, however, Rory's suffered Clothing Damage and looks like she took quite a beating, due to the damage Youji suffered transferring to her.
  • In The Haunting of Drearcliff Grange School, "Shrimp" Harper develops the ability to "breathe in" another person's illnesses or injuries, curing them. She receives the subjective effect of the illness or injury, but not the thing itself, and it fades away over time; when she cures someone's broken arm, she has to wear her own arm in a sling for a few days until it remembers that it's not actually broken.
  • In the series The Healing Wars by Janice Hardy, the main character Nya is a Taker, or someone who can heal the injuries of others by taking their pain into themselves. Unlike most Takers, Nya can't transfer pain into pynvium, an enchanted metal that can absorb pain — she can, however, transfer the pain she's carrying to others. Transferring pain to other Takers is fine (as they can just put it into pynvium themselves), but putting borrowed pain into a normal person is eventually lethal.
  • This is Thom's power in Hero. However, there is a twist to it. The emotional and physical pain Thom absorbs does affect him, but if he can handle it, it makes him stronger, to the point of being able to lift buildings, as shown in the end.
  • This is the special power of Trenod in The Hour Before Morning, who has to live not only with the pain of healing but with a government which forces him to push himself too far for what it considers the general good.
  • This is one of the potential abilities in The M Universe. Gerald finds it to be a mixed bag: it makes him a more effective doctor, but since he can't turn it off, he's bombarded by the emotions of everyone around him 24/7.
  • The title character of The Man Who Carried Trouble has the ability to absorb other people's worries. Despite not being his, however, they still seem to somehow weigh on him.
  • In The Shapeshifter, Mia originally starts out as one of these, but as time passes, she becomes able to heal injuries without hurting herself.
  • This is how wizardly healing works in Sword of Truth. The wizard doing the healing doesn't receive the same wounds but has to take some of the pain that is associated with getting the wound in the first place in order to do it. For example, restoring someone's severed foot makes the wizard take on the pain of it getting bitten off.
  • In the books Touch Of Power by Maria V. Snyder, Avry puts her hands on the injured and assumes their wounds and diseases into herself. For example, healing a person of plague or being run through with a sword, she receives the same disease or injury but suffers through it and heals at a faster pace than an ordinary person.
  • Dolores Michel from Wild Cards is an ace whose power mimics the injury of another person. Both she and the patient will then develop a surprisingly fast and efficient Healing Factor.
  • World of the Five Gods: The heroine of Paladin of Souls gets involved with a pair of noble brothers who share a mortal wound and a demonic link: the elder brother, who is walking around, is actually dead, while the younger, comatose brother's life force is almost entirely diverted to keeping the elder 'alive'. The climax involves the elder brother leading a desperate sortie from their sorcery-besieged castle while his brother and his demon-haunted wife absorb the accumulating battle wounds for as long as possible.
  • This is how healing works in Young Wizards. However, only involves sharing the injured party's experiences, and not the actual injuries, though some serious healings require a bit of the wizard's blood (as in Deep Wizardry).

    Live-Action TV 
  • In The 4400, a one-shot character has the ability to heal genetic defects and birth complications in vitro. Eventually, it's revealed that he's taking these genetic defects into himself. Since he's already full-grown, it doesn't have any immediate result, but over time, combined with the sheer numbers he has healed, he becomes terminal.
  • Dr. Rosen in the Babylon 5 episode "The Quality of Mercy", using alien technology.
  • Zhaan from Farscape can absorb others' pain, if not their actual injuries. Stark later develops a more limited version of this.
  • James Heath of Fringe uses the inversion — he staves off his cancer by transferring it to others. Later in the series, he's able to take the sickness of others into himself, playing this trope straight.
  • The Troubled of the Week in the Haven two-part episode "Magic Hour" can resurrect one person who died recently with a touch per day, at the cost of dying herself until sundown, when she resurrects.
  • In Heroes, this seems to have been Hiro Nakamura's mother's ability.
  • The first episode of an obscure TV show called Miracle deals with a young boy who has such an ability. He saves the protagonist from a deadly car crash, killing himself in the process.
  • Legend of the Seeker: Zedd's healing is similar to the books, though here he takes part of not only a patient's pain but also the disease itself. In "Fever", this becomes a grave problem, as he has to heal himself as well periodically, plus recovering his strength.
  • In Motherland: Fort Salem, Raelle's healing magic works by taking part of someone's illness onto herself. Subverted later when she uses her magic after a certain incident and gets no traces of their illness. She explains that she always takes some part of it, even if just a bit, but in this case, it's completely gone, which alerts her that something is wrong.
  • The Night Visions episode "Now He's Coming Up the Stairs" stars Luke Perry as a psychotherapist with the ability to absorb his patients' mental disorders.
  • Smallville. In season 6, Chloe Sullivan acquires this power (among others). Overusing this ability actually kills her twice, but luckily, she can resurrect herself.
  • Star Trek: The Original Series: The title character of "The Empath" can do this, and her decision of whether to risk her life to save Dr. McCoy is a major plot point.
  • Raw, the Cowardly Lion analogue in Tin Man. Within five minutes of screen time, he heals a nasty wound on Cain's leg and affirms that someone who DG and Glitch thought was just a Jerkass is really a Knight in Sour Armor.
  • The Twilight Zone (1985): In "Quarantine", John uses his ability to absorb another person's pain on Matthew Foreman during the surgery to remove his cancerous tissues.
  • Warehouse 13 features Mary Mallon's Butcher's Knife in one episode, which can transfer injury and illness both ways. It's eventually used by a man who steals it to give himself his dying son's cancer, saving his son but dooming himself.
  • The X-Files: In "The Gift", Agent Doggett (looking for Mulder) investigates a town with a monster that turns out to be a healer that eats the illness out of people, absorbing it. The thing is, he's done it so many times and absorbed so many illnesses that he no longer looks human. Doggett is killed, and the healer ends his life by eating Doggett's death.

    Music 
  • The song ソレイユ -Soleil- by Toraboruta-P features Kagamine Rin as a girl healing the afflicted masses by taking on their darkness and growing progressively weaker.

    Religion 
  • The very concept and basis of Jesus as the Messiah in Christianity is essentially this on a metaphysical or cosmic level. Though God in Human Form, Jesus allowed Himself to be manifested as a mere human being, with full knowledge of his horrific destiny to be tortured and eventually murdered on the cross, so that he could take all the sins of Humanity into himself and experience the very consequence of sin itself: Death. However, by absorbing all these sins and suffering, yet conquering them in his Resurrection, he had given humanity a chance for redemption, healing them of their previous curse of sin, so that eventually they can regain their previous connection with God instead of being damned in eternal separation.

    Tabletop Games 
  • The Blessed in Deadlands feel the pain of whoever they use the Lay On Hands Miracle to heal, and risk suffering identical wounds if the casting roll fails badly.
  • Dungeons & Dragons:
    • The game has spells that cost the caster experience points or cause them to age rapidly for a limited time, depending on the edition. Sometimes the sacrifice can be transferred to or shared with others... voluntarily or not.
    • AD&D 2nd edition psionic power Lend Health.
    • The 3.5 psionic power Empathic Transfer does this. The psionic power Hostile Empathic Transfer is the opposite. In particular, Hostile Empathic Transfer is both the most efficient damaging power and most efficient healing power in the basic psionics book, but is touch-range, allows a Will save for half damage, and the damage is capped by the damage you've taken.
    • The 3.5 exalted feat "Stigmata" allows you to heal people by taking persistent, bleeding wounds yourself. The overall tradeoff is incredibly efficient (especially with help from other abilities), but the ability damage can't be healed for an hour, leaving the user weakened for quite some time.
    • The 4th ed. epic-tier Paladin daily "Gift of Life" allows you to heal others for up to half of your maximum Hit Points, which you take as damage. If someone died since the end of your last turn, you can even bring that person Back from the Dead at 0 HP, taking half of your maximum HP as the cost of it. It is not a good idea to do this when you're bloodied unless you're into the whole Heroic Sacrifice thing.
    • Forgotten Realms arcane spells "Healing Touch" (a reversed variant of Vampiric Touch, hurts The Undead as usual) and "Simbul's Synostodweomer" (converts memorized spells into healing effects).
    • The 2nd Edition supplement HR5 The Glory of Rome has the Caladrius bird. It can look at an ill person and draw the disease out of their body and into its feathers, which then turn grey. When it flies high up into the sunlight the sun's rays purify it.
    • In the 5th Edition supplement book Xanathar's Guide to Everything, there's the 3rd level spell "Life Transference'', which is available to wizards and clerics. The caster takes Necrotic damage, then chooses a target within 30 feet of them who heals double that amount. Ironically, it's a necromancy spell and necromancers in 5th Edition eventually gain resistance to Necrotic damage, but permissive Game Masters will often let necromancers apply their resistance to the damage they take but allow the healing amount to be based on the actual number rolled rather than have necromancers somehow be less effective at using a necromancy spell than other wizards.
  • Share Vitality does this in GURPS: Magic.
  • In Magic: The Gathering, Hazduhr the Abbot can redirect damage from allied white creatures to himself, while Kor creatures (also in white) have an inverted version — they can shunt damage they take to other allied creatures.
  • Mutants & Masterminds lets one create this sort of character as a modifier to the Healing power.
  • This is how the Healer character class works in Role Master — the spells learned are a free-form Empathic Healing list and lots of spells for healing yourself. Notable in that while Heroic Sacrifice is possible, there's actually a spell that allows you to raise the dead by giving up your own soul during the transfer process and then (while soulless) casting the spell to reclaim it.
  • In Pokémon, the Base Set version of Alakazam allows you to move damage counters around between your active and reserve Pokémon, although it specifically keeps the player from knocking out their own monsters in this way.
  • Shadowrun: Adepts plays this so straight that the actual name for the power is "Empathic Healing". A key thing to note, however, is that it's not only not guaranteed, but also very difficult to absorb the entire set of injuries, so there's not much risk in using the power on a gravely injured man.
  • Classic Traveller, Journal of the Travellers' Aid Society #5 article "Special Psionic Powers". The new Empathic Healing psionic power allows the user to transfer someone else's wounds to themselves. If the psionic has the Awareness power, they can use the Regeneration subpower to heal the transferred injuries.

    Video Games 
  • In Atlas Reactor, Orion's signature move, Fate Transfer, transfers 75% of the damage an ally takes this round to himself and gives him energy (used to power his Ultimate) for every point of damage so taken.
  • In Barkley, Shut Up and Jam: Gaiden, Yelmirb a.k.a. Wilford Brimley has the ability to cure diabetes (which in the game is the equivalent of Poison) by taking it in as his own and worsening his own diabetus. When you meet him, he is hooked up to a giant machine that constantly pumps massive quantities of insulin into his body to keep him alive, and his diabetes has gotten so bad that the machine can no longer keep up with the amount of insulin he needs.
  • In Borderlands 2, Krieg's "Redeem the Soul" ability allows him to instantly revive a downed teammate in exchange for putting him in a downed state. However, if he has the "Light the Fuses" ability, this may not inconvenience him all that much.
  • Alicia from Bullet Witch can heal injured civilians this way. Her impressive regenerative powers will quickly nullify any damage she acquires this way, however.
  • City of Heroes: The powers Absorb Pain (in, appropriately, the Empathy powerset) and Share Pain (in the villainous Pain Domination powerset) do this. The healer is prevented from being healed themselves for a time (fifteen seconds, which in CoH is a long time).
  • Dragon Quest IX has the H-Pathy and M-Pathy skills, which transfers part of the user's HP/MP to the target, though H-Pathy isn't really worth a healing spell.
  • In DragonRealms, the healing class is called the Empath. An Empath can take damage from a particular limb, scaring, and even nervous system damage.
  • Fire Emblem:
    • Like almost all of the spells in Fire Emblem Gaiden, healing magic is Cast from Hit Points. Thankfully the target usually recovers more HP from the spell than the caster spent, so keeping two healers close to each other effectively lets you heal for free. Also, some healers have access to the Nosferatu spell which takes the cost of their other spells out of the enemy.
    • A variant in the backstory of Fire Emblem Fates: When Felicia first came to work for the Avatar, they were very sick, with a severe fever. Felicia wanted to help but didn't help the medical knowledge to do so, so she used her ice powers to bring the fever down... by drawing the Avatar's excess body heat into herself.
    • Fire Emblem Heroes has two non-staff healing options that require this. First is Ardent Sacrifice, which heals 10HP from target and takes away that much from the user, and the second one is Reciprocal Aid, which has the user swap their health with the target's.
    • Micaiah's "Sacrifice" ability in Fire Emblem: Radiant Dawn transfers as much HP from herself to her target of healing as she can, down to the limit of leaving 1HP for herself.
    • Notably, Absorb Pain is considered an entirely dispensable power, especially considering that heals are inferior to buffs by far.
  • In Pokémon, the move Pain Split works by adding up the HP of the two Pokémon and redistributing it to them equally. If you're lower than your opponent on health, you recover. If your opponent has less, you end up healing them at the cost of your HP.
  • In Tsukihime, Akiha Tohno gave half of her life force to Shiki after he was killed eight years ago, dooming herself to a "half life" (not to mention the complications with her blood). Shiki isn't much better off, either, but at least, he's alive and that's good enough for her.
  • In Tyranny, the endgame reveals that Graven Ashe's Aegis works in this way. If Graven Ashe is killed, the effect of all the pain he took onto himself is immediately reversed, destroying the Disfavoured irrevocably.

    Webcomics 
  • In Drowtales, Faen (and, it's implied, a good part of her family) have this power. It's not clear if she can die by healing, though.
  • In Lin T, Bactine's healing abilities work this way; she takes the subject's wounds into her body and then heals herself. Eventually, she sacrifices her own life by healing a terminally ill character and the dying protagonist in succession.
  • In Machine Flower, Nine's entire trick is combining this with a Healing Factor.
  • Patchwork Heroes has one of the characters able to heal others. In an interesting subversion of the whole "save a dying person by sacrificing yourself" business, she was able to save her lover from mortal wounds by only absorbing some of them, just enough that they both survived with grievous injuries.
  • When the Adventurer in Penny Blackfeather tries to heal Penny's cut, he accidentally transfers it to himself, because he's untrained in magic.
  • Catharine of Sister Claire displays the ability to take on another's injury in this Missing Moments page. Later, she also displays the ability to transfer an injury of her own to someone else.

    Web Original 
  • SCP Foundation: SCP-590 feels your pain. He was severely traumatized as a result of being forced to help with bringing a stillborn back to life. The Foundation then turned him into a Manchild by having him heal several people with mental deficiencies.
  • Kerry in the Whateley Universe. Not only does she take on the injury or illness of whoever she heals, but she gets major echoes of the last people she healed too. She might heal your blindness and be blind for hours but also get the agony of the cancer patient she cured last, and the cripple she healed before that, and... Even worse, she got captured by some people who forced her to cure person after person after person...
  • In Worm, Scapegoat has something which is almost this — the effect is conditional on neither him nor his target being subjected to any severe impacts or injuries in the hour or six following the procedure, or else they'll revert to their injured state, and the injuries he experiences from the healed person will likewise disappear. He also has the ability to do it in reverse, transferring injuries he's sustained (or absorbed through his power) to someone else.

    Western Animation 

Alternative Title(s): Empathic Healing

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