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July 8, 1974

Laughing All The Way To The Bank

JAMA. 1974;229(2):193. doi:10.1001/jama.1974.03230400055039

Physicians have been, for long, favorite targets of the layman's humor. Look at ludicrous literary caricatures like Diaphorus in Molière's Le Medicin Malgré Lui or Bob Sawyer in Dickens' The Pickwick Papers; and for jocular epigrams, remember "doctors bury their mistakes," or amusing tales told by stock brokers about the vagaries of physician-investors.

Have doctors retaliated in kind? Have they matched their wits with their deriders?

Although not lacking in a sense of humor, doctors do not, as a rule, exercise it in their relations with hospital administrators, government officials, drug manufacturers, and especially—repeat, especially—patients. Had O. Henry been a doctor he would have been rapped on the knuckles for his famous remark that fat women and patients with hay fever attest to God's sense of humor. Even news media operators enjoy a kind of diplomatic immunity from barbs of medical wit, despite their often grotesque medical news coverage.