The humanization of a doctor through a clown lens

Title: The humanization of a doctor through a clown lens

Author: Gustavo Henrique Sumnienski Bertoldi and Gustavo Henrique Alves Manhaguanha


Theme: SC, SCOME

Email: [email protected]

A doctor’s first rule is to do no harm, the second is to treat and help the patient. To do that, we spend countless hours reading physiology, pathology, pediatrics and what not, and looking inside corpses to understand the anatomy of the patient’s body, but do we really understand the patient’s needs, insecurities, dilemmas and feelings? We as doctors tend to get too worried about knowing what exams to do, what pills to prescribe and what diagnosis to cite, and often forget to connect with the human in the room!

The project Palhaçoterapia (clown therapy)1 gave us a way to approach the patient in the harshest moments and make him forget a little bit about his problem and remember that he is a human being. The goal of the clown therapy is the implementation of clown techniques derived from circus art, for the context of the disease, in order to improve the patient’s mood and mental state. The impact on our lives is far greater than the good we do for the patient. It teaches us doctors how to put ourselves in the other person’s shoes and to see not only what he has seen, but also feel what he has felt in coping with his illness. This process is called humanization; it’s looking at the patient, not through him. 

On a regular day in October 2019, we entered a room where a 17-year old boy, who had been battling cancer for several years, was getting his treatment. We expected him to be sad, and not willing to interact with anyone, but he had a big smile on his face as soon as he saw us. He told us to come in and play with him before we even said a single word. He sang, did some magic tricks, made some jokes and yet his smile never faltered once. Later on, we found out that our beloved clown had paid him a visit just minutes before we went into his room.  

At that moment we realized that he didn’t want a doctor or a nurse fawning over him day and night; he wanted to be the light in the room and to be seen as a person that can accomplish anything. This is what this project is about. It’s about loving and supporting each other, and maintaining hopeful attitude no matter what. It’s about connecting souls and being a humane and empathic person. 


  1. de Camargo Catapan S, de Oliveira WF,  Rotta TM. Clown therapy in the hospital setting: A review of the literature. Ciênc. saúde coletiva [online]. 2019, vol.24, n.9 [cited  2020-01-24], pp.3417-3429. Available from: 

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