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Patch Adams: humor as medicine

Walcott repeatedly tries to have Adams thrown out, but the rebellious student triumphs in the end, managing to graduate with honors and open a free clinic that continues to thrive.

Adams' methods, while unorthodox, have been proven effective. James Rotton and Mark Shats (1996, October 16) report on the results of a field experiment they conducted that tested the impact of exposure to humor on postsurgical patients. Those who heard jokes or were encouraged to tell funny stories were significantly less likely to request additional pain medication during their recovery than those in the control group. They also reported feeling in a better mood and having more optimistic expectations of recovery.

These kinds of results are reflected in the movie. When Adams appeals his expulsion to Walcott's superior, Dean Anderson, the older man admits that his sources have shown the benefits of Adams' hospital visits. The nurses on duty have told him that Adams has improved the quality of life for his patients. They observe that patients he has given individual attention to tend to complain less and use less pain medication.

Humor has been shown to be effective in dealing with stress. Susan Flagg Godbey and her associates (1997, May) report, "A new study shows that most anyone can slash negative responses to stress by mentally writing an impromptu sitcom of sorts" (p. 30). They discuss a study in which 80 individuals were asked to watch a film about an industrial accide


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