Intended for healthcare professionals

Feature Christmas 2009: Professional Matters

Evidence based merriment

BMJ 2009; 339 doi: (Published 07 December 2009) Cite this as: BMJ 2009;339:b5098
  1. David Isaacs, clinical professor in paediatric infectious diseases1,
  2. Stephen Isaacs, consultant child psychiatrist2,
  3. Dominic Fitzgerald, senior staff physician in respiratory medicine1
  1. 1Children’s Hospital at Westmead and University of Sydney, Sydney, NSW 2145, Australia
  2. 2Waltham Forest Child and Family Consultation Service, London, UK
  1. davidi{at}


    Medical humour has a long history, but is short on evidence. The ancient Greeks introduced the world to bodily fluids called the four humours. You would think that a philosophy based on blood, choler, phlegm, and melancholy was no laughing matter.

    What is the evidence that medical humour benefits staff or patients? We performed a systematic revue, but it was not funny. We propose a randomised controlled trial of medical humour.

    Pilot study

    The Royal Flying Doctor Service funded a pilot study. Hospital staff completed a standardised questionnaire about the role of humour in their department.

    The department of surgery expressed an interest in side-splitting jokes.

    The ophthalmology …

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