Clown Doctors in NYC

The article I chose to reflect on is titled, “Clown Doctors: Shaman Healers of Western Medicine.” This article described the group referred to as the CCU, or Clown Care Unit, of New York City hospitals. The healers of this article are these so called, clown doctors, who visit hospitals in efforts to help patients and their families deal with illness. The clown doctors wear goofy costumes, play musical instruments, puppeteer, and manipulate various medical symbols or practices all in attempts to alleviate the distress of the patients. According to the article, clown doctors also interact with the patients by means of entertaining bored children and mothers in crowded outpatient clinic waiting rooms, distracting anxious families in inner-city emergency rooms, comforting parents of children in intensive care units, and distracting small AIDS or cancer patients during painful or frightening procedures. Over time, the social status of the CCU has become very popular among the patients and their families, and this growing interest suggests a more welcoming attitude towards alternative or complementary medicine.

The sector that I think fits best for clown doctors would be the professional sector. Although these clown doctors are not health professionals or technically practicing biomedicine themselves, their purpose is in support of these functions that are highly respected in Western society. In Western culture, the body and symptoms are understood bio-medically, which can be described as the allopathic treatment of clinical symptoms. Through the practice of biomedicine, an illness or disease is studied and then treated accordingly by doctors, various drug treatments and/or medicines, and other healing practices. In the case of the clown doctors, their purpose is not necessarily to treat the physical problem of a disease, but rather, they serve to alleviate one’s social condition surrounding a disease. For example, one’s experience of an illness may be negative or distressing, resulting in that individual becoming depressed or afraid or giving up in a sense, which is where the clown doctors come in, helping to reconstruct the mindset of that individual through multiple facets.

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  1. Hannah Porter says:

    As described in Alisyn’s summary the clown doctors differ from biomedical doctors mainly because they are not licensed physicians and instead of addressing patients’ physical symptoms they focus on the mental and social aspects of the disease. One thing they do share is the common concern for the well being of the patient and overall health. I think these healers are credible and effective because they are trained in what they do and help alleviate fear or lighten the mood of someone suffering from an illness. Too often hospitals are seen as serious and dreaded places and I think having some fun or cracking a joke can go all long way in not only improving a patient’s day but helping them have a better outlook on how they are going to deal with their illness. I think this type of healing would be especially valuable in the treatment of children because I know many children are scared of going to the doctor (I know I was) and by having a clown doctor in the room it would help the child be more comfortable and be able to have some fun even though they are dealing with an illness. Together clown doctors and regular doctors can provide a better health system by addressing not only the patient’s physical health but their mental and social health as well.

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