Medics have traditionally enjoyed a dark sense of humour. If you can’t laugh at human misery then what can you laugh at?
But the latest research confirms that a doctor’s traditional sense of humour has been eroded by current working conditions.
We met up with Prof Candid at the Institute for Laffs. He said: ‘For the purposes of the study we divided our group of doctors into two roughly equal cohorts. We showed the experimental cohort a picture of a really pissed off cat wearing a pink cow boy hat and then flashed up the word “bum-hole”.
‘And to the control group we showed a depressingly grey picture of Croydon high-street next to the word “drizzle”. All the candidates were scanned inside an MRI machine.
‘The results were really rather interesting,’ says Prof. ‘Different people actually find different things funny. For example, if I were to put on a clown’s red nose and drop my trousers you probably wouldn’t laugh. You’d probably just want to punch me really hard in the nose. Whereas clowns have been entertaining terrified children like this for years.’
One of the candidates fresh from the experimental group agreed to speak with us at the Institute.
She said: ‘When I was lying in the scanner and saw the picture of the cat squeezed into the pink cowboy hat I didn’t see feline based comedy. I thought to myself, why has this poor cat been made to look so ridiculous? It clearly doesn’t want to wear the hat!
‘And then I thought this is a breach of animal rights and contravenes our basic right not to wear a cow boy hat. So I delved into European case law and started an online campaign and then I started drinking.’
Prof added: ‘It seems that the doctors who were childish enough to smirk at the word “bum-hole” were better psychologically adjusted and statistically less prone to burn out than those who took it seriously.
‘Worryingly, one of the controls laughed hysterically at the word “drizzle” and we had to forcibly remove her from the machine by the ankles.’
The paper concludes that the incessant demands of revalidation, inspection, patient complaint, political interference and unfilled vacancies, not to mention contract changes and the GMC breathing down your neck have atrophied those vital areas of the brain which are needed for merriment. Prof’s team has rather astutely called this a partial merrimectomy.
In order to get a sense of fun back the team recommends early retirement, if this isn’t possible why not cover yourself in pritt stick and roll around in glitter or shout “plums” as loud as you can in the reading room of the British Library.
Dr Kevin Hinkley is a GP in Aberdeen.