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Health: Laughter as Cure

Updated on August 14, 2013

Dr. Patch Adams and Norman Cousins

Hunter "Patch" Adams was sorely criticized in his official permanent record at medical school, because he displayed "excessive happiness." Since when does depression make a good doctor?

My own family doctor, as I grew up through high school, was depressed and nasty. While he saw patients, he smoked, yelled, and drank Pepto Bismol incessantly to ease stomach ulcers. His daughter became a nurse and was found lying in the nurses lounge of the downtown hospital complex in which she worked shortly after graduation - dead of a drug overdose he took from the drug supply of the hospital. Her father closed up his practice early the next morning without cancelling patients and left town, never to be heard from again. His long time sole employee, a tired nurse, was left to deal with the aftermath. This all was not good medicine.

The training of doctors can be abusive, and it need not be so. Adams was exhorted by his faculty advisor that, "If you want to be a clown, join a circus."

Adams no longer wanted to commit suicide as he once had, and yes, he did want to be a clown; but, not in a circus. His goal was to use laughter and innovation in the realm of medicine.

Despite the efforts of bullies still in the medical establishment and misunderstandings and heartbreak while developing his humor, Adams became successful. He uses the concepts of an individual life calling and humor to heal the everyday lives and the acute tragedies of his patients and community at Gesundheit Institute and around the world.

The Doctor travels 300 days a year and gives up to 11 presentations a day, showing how serious he is that humor will work miracles. Busloads of volunteers travel with him annually to places as far off as rural parts of Russia and third world countries, where they all done clown noses and laugh and care for patients and the broken and downtrodden. He receives so many applications to volunteer each year, that he has to turn away many individuals.

Patch Adams contemplated suicide, spent time as a patient in a mental institute, worked in a psychiitric facilty and came out laughing with the world. He invites others to laugh and treat others with kindness and good humor as well.

Laughter Clubs

Well before Patch Adams became famous, Norman Cousins popularized his plight of poor health and his laughter cure. Almost completely paralyzed by crippling arthritis and similar autoimmune dysfunction, Cousins checked out of the hospital and moved across the street to a hotel where his doctor could visit frequently. Cousins watched funny films and TV shows and the laughter loosens his jaw, then his neck and then his extremities so that he could start moving a bit. Adding natural and organic foods and vitamins, he was up exercising in good time and back to work as a major magazine editor in several months. He eventually became a professor in Southern California, teaching new doctors how to use laughter to heal.

Universities across America have instituted Humor In Medicine courses, because they have been inspired by his example.

One of the Doctor's opinions about the Healthcare System: " the current system of profit, care has been relegated to the burden category: the burden of our elderly, the burden of our poor, the burden of our mentally ill, the burden of the criminal element-and these are all burdens-where it's really the multinational corporations that are getting the gigantic cuts in subsidies and benefits, but we never hear about them being our burden..." - from a TV interview. Dr. Adams would like to place a burden upon everyone in society to help one another achieve better health together, more organically.


Dr. Patch Adams

Patch Adams - from Suicide to Joy

Dr. Adams's Suggestions to Heal Us All

  1. Pick up all the trash in an area in your hometown; be its guardian. Tell others about it.
  2. Be friendly to everyone at all times; experiment outrageously.
  3. Offer a shoulder or foot rub in any environment.
  4. Always speak up for justice, no matter how much it costs.
  5. Go once a week on a "house call" to a nursing home to cheer people up as a friend.
  6. Turn off your TV and become interesting. Perform yourself.
  7. Consider being silly in public. Sing out loud. Wear funny stuff.
  8. Find ways to need a whole lot less money; share beyond belief.
  9. Have potlucks frequently, with neighbors, co-workers, strangers. Work toward living in extended families.
  10. Take your vacations in your own hometown and spend the money working on projects there that help build community.


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