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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.

A subtrope 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.

Examples of Empathic Healer include:

Anime and Manga

  • Some hurriedly-introduced Applied Phlebotinum allows Zoro of One Piece to do this for Luffy.
  • Joshua of Chrono Crusade was at least heavily implied to be like this. He wasn't an Ill Boy 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.
  • In Violinist of Hameln, Queen Horn has such healing powers, which her daughter Flute has inherited.
  • Surprisingly enough for a kiddie show, Ojamajo Doremi has this. For this reason, healing magic is actually illegal. When Hazuki tries it anyway to heal a bunny and spare one of her friends the trauma of losing the poor thing, the Queen of the Fairies herself has to intervene to save her from dying or being severely wounded, and even then she cannot remove all the bad karma so Hazuki gets a huge cold instead.
  • Angel Gozen gives this ability to Ouka Hayasaka in Busou Renkin. Shoot a special arrow at someone, you get their wounds.
  • While Himawari from XxxHolic doesn't innately possess this power, she did 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 left him severely injured.
    • Similarly, Doumeki lost the same amount of blood as Watanuki did from the same incident.
  • 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.

Comic Books

  • Raven in Teen Titans.
  • Inverted by Holden Carver aka The Conductor in Sleeper - 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.
  • Ragman from The DCU. He's a walking puragatory, 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.
  • This is (sometimes) how Multiple Man, from Marvel Comics, 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.
  • Nightingale in Marvel: The Lost Generation.

Fan Fics


  • 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.
  • Wolverine in the first X-Men film plays this one through a combination of powers: Rogue was wounded, she sucks the life energy and steals the powers of anyone she touches, Wolverine has Healing Factor, so he decided to hold Rogue to take her wounds into himself and later heal them.
    • The position and type of the wounds inflicted on Wolverine have nothing in common with Rogue's. More likely she was draining so much of his power that his previous healings were starting to come undone -- thus the gashes on his face and stuff.
      • Exactly. In one incident, Wolverine gets zapped by Rogue and is very ill until his healing factor kicks in. In another, he accidentally stabs her (don't startle the knife man up close), then purposely activates -her- power. Rogue gets -his- healing abillity and her stab wounds heal.
        • It's the other way around. The first time was when he stabbed her, and she steals his powers. Then, later, he purposely lends her his power--and we see previously-healed wounds reopen.
  • Part of the explanation of Kayako's origins in The Grudge 2.
  • 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.


  • 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 (see Deep Wizardry).
  • Kane in Dennis L. McKiernan's Caverns of Socrates heals people in this manner, taking others' injuries onto himself.
  • This is how wizardly healing works in the Sword of Truth series. 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 Cleric Quintet, Pikel and Cadderly both do this at different points in the story. Cadderly actually takes on mortal wounds with this but heals because he's wearing a ring of regeneration.
  • 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.
  • Mia originally starts out as one of these, but as time passes she becomes able to heal injuruies without hurting herself.
  • 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.
  • The heroine of Lois Bujold's 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 eldest leading a desperate sortie from their sorcery-beseiged castle while his brother and his demon-haunted wife absorb, as long as possible, the accumulating battle wounds.
  • This is the power of Thom's in Perry Moore's 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.

Live Action TV

  • The first episode of a very mediocre TV show (I think it was called Miracle) deals with a young boy who has that ability he saves the protagonist from a deadly car crash, killing himself in the process
  • Star Trek: The Original Series episode "The Empath". The title character can do this, and her decision of whether to risk her life to save Dr. McCoy is a major plot point.
  • Smallville. In season 6, Chloe Sullivan acquires this power (among others).
  • Zhaan in Farscape could absorb others' pain, if not their actual injuries.
  • Dr. Rosen in the Babylon 5 episode "The Quality of Mercy", using alien technology.
  • An episode of the short-lived horror anthology Night Visions, "Now He's Coming Up the Stairs," starred Luke Perry as a psychotherapist with the ability to absorb his patients' mental disorders.
  • The X-Files, "The Gift." 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. Thing is, he's done it so many times and absorbed so many illnesses that he no longer looks human. Like in the example mentioned above, Doggett is killed, and the healer ends his life by eating Doggett's death.
  • This seems to have been Hiro Nakamura's mother's ability
  • Raw, the Cowardly Lion analogue in Tin Man. Within five minutes of screen time, he healed a nasty wound on Cain's leg, and affirmed that what DG and Glitch thought was just a Jerkass was really a Knight in Sour Armor.
  • In The 4400, a one shot character had the ability to heal genetic defects and birth complications in vitro. Eventually it was revealed that he was taking these genetic defects into himself. Since he was already full grown, it didn't have any immediate result, but over time, combined with the sheer numbers he had healed, he became terminal.
  • James Heath of Fringe used the inversion - he staved off his cancer by transferring it to others. Later in the series, he was able to take the sickness of others into himself.

Tabletop Games

  • Dungeons and Dragons 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.
  • Mutants and Masterminds lets one create this sort of character as a modifier to the Healing power.
  • 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.
  • 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, it's very difficult to absorb the entire set of injuries, so there's not much risk in using the power on a gravely-injured man.
  • 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.
  • Share Vitality does this in GURPS: Magic.

Video Games

  • Ramza's "Wish" ability from Final Fantasy Tactics.
  • Fire Emblem:
  • 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).
    • 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 Pokemon 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. To my knowledge, you cannot use this in Double Battles to redistribute your HP through two of your Pokemon, sadly.
    • In the card game, the Base Set version of Alakazam allows you to move damage counters around between your active and reserve Pokemon, although it specifically keeps the player from knocking out their own monsters in this way.
  • Alicia, the titular witch of Bullet Witch, can heal injured civilians this way. Her impressive regenerative powers will quickly nullify any damage she acquires this way, however.
  • 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.
  • Tn the text-based MMORPG, Dragon Realms, the healing class is called the Empath. An Empath could take damage from a particular limb, scaring, and even nervous system damage.
  • In Barkley, Shut Up and Jam: Gaiden, Wilford Brimley has the ability to cure diabetus diabetes (which in the game is the equivalent of Poison) by taking it in as his own and worsening his own diabetus.


  • 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.
  • Adrak in Dominic Deegan can do this using the Nakta, which is usually a destructive force, as seen here.
  • Bactine of Lint'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.
  • Little-known sprite comic Patchwork Heroes has one of the characters able to do this. 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.
  • Nine from Machine Flower. His entire trick is combining this with a Healing Factor.

Web Original

  • He feels your pain.
  • 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. So 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...

Western Animation

  • Like her comic book counterpart, Raven in Teen Titans. Worth noting since the two versions don't share that many traits.
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