Just having a laugh
In the first of a series of articles, Daniel Sokol and Deborah Bowman consider the dangers of humour
Of all professionals, few are as fond of a good joke as doctors. Addressing medical students 80 years ago, William Osler encouraged his audience to “appreciate the inconceivably droll situations in which we catch our fellow creatures.”1 He concluded: “Hilarity and good humour, a breezy cheerfulness … help enormously both in the study and in the practice of medicine.”1
From first year medical students to retired consultants, all have laughed at the comedy of the human condition during the course of their clinical work. Thankfully, amid the sadness of illness and death lie fragments of comic gold. These precious moments of cheer punctuate the fundamentally serious role of healing the sick.
Much has been written on why doctors and medical students use humour at work, especially offensive or cynical humour about patients.23 Some commentators believe that it is a protective mechanism against the horror and suffering before them; others think