Clown Doctors in New York City

I chose to read the article titled “Clown Doctors: Shaman Healers of Western Medicine.”  I am glad I read this article because it offered me insight on something I was not very familiar with.  This article discusses the lives of clown doctors and their relationships to non-Western healers and Western doctors.  Clown doctors are healers that travel to hospitals in order in lift the spirits of patients, their families and nurses.  These “doctors” travel to all areas of a hospital.  They visit the cardiology unit, intensive care unit and even the burn unit.  As stated in the article, the burn unit is he most difficult for clown doctors to cope with.  They interact with their audience by distracting them from the illness. disease or issue at hand.  Clown doctors use bubbles, magic, song, sketches, jokes and more as their techniques.

Typically, clown doctors cannot heal patients on their own, but they work together with doctors to heal a patient more rapidly.  In Western medicine, when a patient is sick doctors focus on their body, and treat the patient’s symptoms.  The clown doctors focus on their mind and spirits in attempt to better one’s illness experience.  Many times doctors find patients seeking alternative treatments.  This is because patients can feel as if doctors do not focus on all aspects of their well-being or their entire illness experience.  Currently, many people are experimenting with alternative medicine.

Clown doctors are very similar to the Shaman of non-Western cultures.  Both clown doctors and Shaman use costumes, magic, ventriloquism, chanting, puppets and music.  They both pay close attention to one’s illness experience, and are usually viewed with ambivalence.  Both of these healers manipulate symbols of their societies’ health system in a way that the placebo effect may occur.  As the article say, “The power of placebos lies in the power of symbols.”

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  1. Naomi Fleischmann says:

    I am glad that you chose to write about this topic because I, like you, was unfamiliar with this practice until I read the article. I think everyone would agree that a clown doctor is not even close to a biomedical doctor because they do not treat any problems that patients may have; instead they try to make the patients forget about the very existence of the problem. In fact, calling these people “doctors” is relatively insulting to those people who have worked hard for their degree in medicine; however, I do not believe that that was the intent of the clown doctors. Even though clown doctors should not be considered legitimate doctors, there is definitely something to be said about bringing medical patients joy. The health benefits that laughter and happiness bring to patients are indescribable. I would not get too carried away, though, because I do not believe that clown doctors should be depended on to help cure patients. I have always believed that no amount of treatment that is not scientifically supported will ever help a person to fully overcome an ailment. It is unfortunate, but no amount of chanting will help a patient who is bleeding internally or a patient who is having seizures, only a skilled surgeon can help the patient at that point. So although a clown doctor may be a welcome distraction to many patients, I would have to argue that a distraction can only go so far in the treatment of an illness.

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