Medicine, Health Care and Philosophy 23 (2):179-190 (2020)

Carter Hardy
University of Tampa
Medical professionals seem to interpret their uses of humor very differently from those outside the medical profession. Nurses and physicians argue that humor is necessary for them to do their jobs well. Many patients are horrified that they could one day be the butt of their physician’s jokes. The purpose of this paper is to encourage the respectful use of humor in clinical prac-tice, so as to support its importance in medical practice, while simultaneously protecting against its potential abuse. I begin by examining two extremes of supporting or chastising the use of medical humor. I look at these views through the lenses of popular theories of humor to help explain their theoretical bases. In this second section, I explain the emotional aspect of humor as an embodied and embedded transformation of the world. This clarifies the role that humor plays in our daily lives, as well as why the ethical or unethical nature of its use is dependent on context. Third, I address the potential problems in the relationship between humor and clinical sympathy, and how this further affects the relationship between medical professionals and their patients. I conclude by arguing that humor can conflict with clinical sympathy, but this need not be the case. If medical professionals actively engage with clinical sympathy and focus on using humor in a way that is respectful towards their patients, then humor can continue to be a positive force in their lives while still providing the best care for their patients.
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DOI 10.1007/s11019-019-09928-0
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The Visible and the Invisible.Maurice Merleau-Ponty - 1968 - Northwestern University Press.
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