Clown Doctors in New York City

I chose the article about New York City’s clown doctors because I did not know that this sort of practice was happening in the United States. To summarize, the article “Clown Doctors: Shaman Healers of Western Medicine” analyzed the inclusion of alternative healing methods, also referred to as complementary methods, that were arising in the United States. The article followed the day in the life of these so called, “clown doctors” and compared their purpose, results and perception to shamans. These clown doctors, in summary, provided an excellent example to the idea of complementary styles of healings, that is, an unconventional method working together with Western biomedicine.

The article was focused around a group of three clowns. These people all had backgrounds in performance, ranging from mime to music. What the article interestingly pointed out was that these clown doctors are successful with children because these kids do not yet have the same perception of society and what is viewed as unconventional. Therefore, there social status in the eyes of an American adult is lower than that of a doctor. In the hospital, the article illustrates an appreciation for these clowns from the professional staff. Their techniques include gags, music, puppetry, etc; all of which is directed at lifting the spirits of the patients, but also the staff and family of those who are ill. What I also found interesting is the particular way the clowns interact with the patients. They always make sure that they have the power. In their acts, the child always determines what will happen next: why the trick is going wrong, where the clown lost with puppet and where the clown is hiding. This is a great way to empower children who may have felt powerless because of the illness or trauma they are facing.

In this article, these clown doctors operate in New York hospitals in the western medical system. There is a quote in the article that highlights the integration of clown doctors and other non-traditional methods because it, “…views a person more than a collection of cells and symptoms.” Western medicine has the reputation of focusing purely on the treating symptoms of disease. What it lacks is the sensitivity and the consideration of the social effects the disease may have on the patient. This is where introducing methods like clown doctors with standard biomedical practices can both help the patient physical and mentally.

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  1. Alex Palffy says:

    I believe that the clown “doctors” in New York City can promote the well-being of children in hospitals. While I personally would probably be rolling my eyes constantly if clowns were roaming my workplace (I was curious and watched the video on them, they were pretty annoying and kind of creepy) the methods the clowns employ offers an important insight on treating hospital-ridden patients. First, the clowns offer additional attention to patients that probably aren’t getting enough. Doctors and nurses are very busy and their priorities do not include the entertainment of the patients, nor should they be expected to as that would be a misallocation of resources and not very cost effective. In addition, the clowns are compassionate and offer the children empowerment in their “acts”. Empowerment is especially important because a patient in a hospital feels very helpless and seems to lack any control over their life. Patients are waken up at any time to be poked, prodded and exposed. While this may be necessary to providing medical treatment, it does place stress on the patient that should be addressed but usually isn’t. Some hospitals offer similar “mood lifters” such as having trained dogs visit or other types of entertainment, but for the most part a patient is left alone only having the power to change the channel on their TV.

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