Hospitals: Clowning around on the cancer ward

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The Independent Online
Dr Giraffe and Dr Babyface, equipped with medical bags containing fart whistles, puppets and red noses, are helping children cope with cancer. As clowns, they play tricks on the real doctors, dance, squirt water and give the children a handle on their fear.

The value of the clowns as members of the medical team in a children's cancer unit in France is described in the Lancet. They perform "red nose transplants", and make balls that could be tumours appear and disappear. In one case, a seven year old boy encased in plaster was symbolically crowned as a king and then invested with powers to order the clown to play absurd tricks. This ritual enabled him to preserve his pride and become more accepting of his treatment.