ContextEmotional intelligence (EI) is a term used to describe people's awareness of, and ability to respond to, emotions in themselves and other people. There is increasing research evidence that doctors' EI influences their ability to deliver safe and compassionate health care, a particularly pertinent issue in the current health care climate. ObjectivesThis review set out to examine the value of EI as a theoretical platform on which to base selection for medicine, communication skills education and professionalism. MethodsWe conducted a critical review with the aim of answering questions that clinical educators wishing to increase the focus on emotions in their curriculum might ask. ResultsAlthough EI seems, intuitively, to be a construct that is relevant to educating safe and compassionate doctors, important questions about it remain to be answered. Research to date has not established whether EI is a trait, a learned ability or a combination of the two. Furthermore, there are methodological difficulties associated with measuring EI in a medical arena. If, as has been suggested, EI were to be used to select for medical school, there would be a real risk of including and excluding the wrong people. ConclusionsEmotional intelligence-based education may be able to contribute to the teaching of professionalism and communication skills in medicine, but further research is needed before its wholesale adoption in any curriculum can be recommended. Discuss ideas arising from the article at '