If you’re a Seinfeld fan (and of course you are) you probably remember the episode where George fakes an arm injury to the point of actually having to go to the doctor to get it checked out.
The doctor says “may I suggest the possibility that you’re faking” and basically takes no prisoners in the face of a lying liar.
I sincerely hope these 18 doctors had the chutzpah to tell their faking faker patients the same thing.
18. How inspiring! Ha!
Whenever we had kids (usually teenagers) playing up their symptoms to extend their hospital stay, we would order them into a healthy lifestyle.
Lights out at 9, no screen time for two hours before bed time, healthy diet chock full of fruits and vegetables, screen time limits, minimum number of laps around the unit per day to get in their exercise…. they got better so much faster with our healthy lifestyle tips!
17. This guy really knows how to paint a picture.
Taking trauma call during surgery residency, had a prisoner come in after a fight and claimed he couldn’t move or feel his legs. All the CT scans and MRIs were normal, but we would shield his legs so he couldn’t see them and poke them with needles and other sharp objects, with enough force to cause pain- he never flinched or moved his legs at all. He was diagnosed with SCIWORA (spinal cord injury without radiographic abnormality).
He stayed in the hospital for a week, no improvement. Always had one guard with him. One night they were down in the lobby watching some television but the guard needed to use the restroom. The patient said, “where could I possibly go? I’m paralyzed!” Guard left him alone for two minutes.
Patient last seen sprinting down the road, naked butt cheeks flapping in the breeze. Made it to a city four hours away by car before he was caught again. I have never seen anyone fake it so well. Truly playing the long con!
16. Some of these are just plain sad.
Sorta along the same idea. Working at a pharmacy we saw a guy come in to try and get a refill on some pain meds that had no refill. After pleading that his ear really hurt we told him again we couldn’t refill it. One of the other employees saw his step into a side hallway and take a pencil and JAM it forcefully into his ear repeatedly, drawing blood. He calmly left and went to the ER. He came back a few hours later with a prescription for pain meds.
15. This is completely flabbergasting.
Patient was convinced she had a melanoma and needed a biopsy and would need to be on workers comp
I told her it looked like ink from a marker
She demanded a biopsy
I wiped the area off with an alcohol swab and showed her the ink and that there was no spot on her skin anymore
She stormed out threatening to sue
I’m just glad I cured her melanoma
14. I hope the warning worked.
This patient comes in for back pain with “weakness” of the legs. Gets a full workup with MRI, standard blood work, and then some immunological things to look for stuff like myasthenia gravis. No neurological or immunological explanation for the “weakness.” Patient is seen by physical therapy and they are of the opinion that the patient is holding back intentionally.
Go to see the patient at the end of the day and prep them for discharge. Patient is infuriated that they’re being discharged. Yelling and screaming about how they aren’t better, how they’re disappointed in the institution, blah blah blah. They said one particular thing that still clearly stands out 3-4 years later. “I can’t believe you’re sending me home already. I haven’t even told my family I’m here, and now you’re going to send me home before they even have the chance to see me?”
My attending and I leave the room to arrange things with the nurses. We go back in and the patient is out of bed and standing up in the middle of the room. Miraculously the patient is able to walk with zero assistance when they had so much difficulty with any assistance over the previous two days. At that point, they were enraged was enraged we went in to the room without knocking. They were discharged home after a conversation regarding abuse of medical services.
13. It’s a miracle!
Had a patient come in for a fall who now couldn’t move their legs at all. Did a bunch of tests, didn’t find anything. The patient was not at all phased by suddenly being paralyzed which was the first red flag. Didn’t really believe anything was wrong but the patient was still not moving their legs. My options are to admit for a huge work up or get them to walk. So I update them saying everything is fine, tests are negative, you can go home. Patient gets up, gets dressed and walks out without a word.
12. And this was a grown adult.
Had a patient when I was an intern feigning blindness. She would constantly be playing on her smartphone, only furiously trying to hide it when someone from the care team came into her room. The best was when my attending one day strolled pst her room and threw his hand up in a highly exaggerated ‘hello’ wave. She started to throw her arm up to but caught herself half way through, then threw her hand back into her lap and pretended to be ‘staring’ off into nothing.
11. This might be one of the saddest stories I’ve ever read.
Not a doctor but worked in health care for nearly 20yrs. While taking a break from the ICU (due to it being emotionally draining) I worked in home health for a bit. I had a patient who clearly had munchausen syndrome. On a daily basis she would call her insurance to see what things would be covered if she was diagnosed with this or that. She called her Doctor’s office an average of 5x during my shift with her, she would report all kinds of non real symptoms. She pestered the doctors into do exploitive laparoscopic surgery, of course nothing was found. One day I walked in and she was rubbing her incisions with rotten cabbage trying to get it infected. She wasnt seeking pain meds (except to sell) really she was just as happy with antibiotics or stool softeners, anything, as long as they wrote her a prescription and she got to go to the pharmacy where she did a whole song and dance for them too, claiming allergies and reactions.
She always increased the exaggeration of her story too. One time she fluttered her eyes (after making sure I was looking) and said she lost consciousness in that half a second. She called the doctor and claimed she lost consciousness for 5mins, she called the insurance and claimed it was 10min, she called the pharmacy and claimed it was 30min, then she called 911 and told them she woke up on the floor after loosing consciousness for 4hrs.
The worst thing about her was she was a mom. Her son was 28 at the time and by all the stories of his childhood illnesses and all her saying how he is severely disabled I knew she basically fucked up his childhood with munchausen by proxy. She portrayed him as being severely disabled and that’s why he would never find a wife…I met him, he was healthy and of average intelligence. He wasnt looking for a wife, he was gay, but she refused to accept that.
Working with her was so miserable that I took a couple years off from any and all healthcare after that.
10. Another Festivus miracle!
Nurse for an ophthalmologist here. Had a 21 year old new patient claiming to be completely blind from a sudden and severe glaucoma diagnosis from a previous unknown doctor. Would feel around while walking, tried to keep eyes rolled back into his head. The whole 9 yards. He said he is a famous YouTube rapper that is now unable to make videos or earn a living. I exclaimed to have heard of him before and very excitedly asked him to search and show me his YouTube channel on my phone so that I could subscribe. He took my phone out of my hand and effortlessly found the YouTube app and typed away in the search bar. Oh, and of course his eyes were back to normal and focused.
9. Hahaha that’s one way to cure them.
We had a patient faking a seizure so my supervisor told one of us to get the “brain needle”.
The patient made a miraculous and swift recovery without intervention.
8. Soccer players, man. Wimps.
One time my roommate (who is an ICU nurse) came to see one of my indoor soccer games. During the game a player on the other team went down “hurt” and starting screaming in pain and swearing and rolling around while holding his ankle before he was eventually helped off the field. He then limped over to where the fans sat and watched the rest of the game brooding in silence before he left early. After the game my roommate told me he was going to go over and see if there was anything he could do to help, until he saw that the guy was limping on the wrong leg.
7. Talk about a crazy (life-saving) coincidence.
Young (18-20) Woman went running into small rural hospital ER pretending to have abdominal pain. Police officer had tagged her going 40+km over the limit which was ‘stunt driving’ as per the new law in Ontario (impound and license suspension automatic). Cop followed her into ER and apparently said he’d be waiting for her when she left.
Locum staff such as myself were housed at a small B&B about 15 mins away, and the ER had pre-printed order sets to be done before we arrived.
When I arrived she flat out admitted that she just came in because she freaked out and didn’t stop. I told her we’d give her 45 mins to call her parents/family before I booted her.
Except, bHCG came back positive, and subsequent ultrasound came back showing extremely early ectopic.
Officer figures out something is up when he hears air ambulance call come in over radio.
She was completely asymptomatic and just worked out that she dodged both charges and a life threatening issue by accident.
It was definitely a WTF moment.
6. I need to know why, though.
I once saw a patient who had been faking paralysis of the legs for years. Used a wheelchair, never walked, etc. Old records showed extensive imaging, neurology consults, and other tests that proved the patient had full function of all extremities. Family/friends were just going along with it. Not sure if it was really conversion disorder or if the patient had some secondary gain issue.
5. Was she trying to get out of work, or…?
Physical therapist here.
Working mom comes into the clinic with her infant in a stroller. She’s limping like she’s got a nail in her foot. Wincing in pain and tears in her eyes. She’s crying during her visit with the PT. None of us think she’s faking it…
She limped out of the clinic. I glanced out of the window and saw this woman BOUNDING down the sidewalk. Hips swaying, full stride, going places.
We were all fools.
4. Things they probably don’t prepare you for in medical school.
Was told this one by a fellow nurse I used to work with when we had a psych floor. It’s not unusual for psych patients to stash things in various orifices. This one woman was convinced she was impregnated by a ghost like figure but no one would believe her.
So one day she started complaining of massive pelvic and uterine pain. She called them contractions. So the doctor goes to do an exam. The doctor feels something larger in there so they prep a table to get the object out which was quite large.
So the wonderful third year helping with the procedure starts hearing this woman complain of contractions and yelling things like “ SHOULD I PUSH!!!! I’M GONNA START PUSHING!!!”. Doctor trying to work forceps around this woman’s parts as to not hurt her. Finally goes “got…” and as he starts saying “it” he pulls out a baby doll. Head only.
The poor med student did the wobble. Went all flush, had problems keeping balance and about took a dive. I was told he didn’t live that down the whole rotation.
3. Oh my god this is horrifying.
Pediatric neuropsychologist. Got a referral for more or less consolidation care. Patient was 13, wheelchair bound, required therapeutic oxygen, seizures, arthritis, musculoskeletal problems, suspected autism, completely nonverbal, severe behavior challenges, the list goes on. He was being followed by at least 8 different specialties, clearly none of whom were communicating with each other, and med list was ~18 prescriptions long including some incredibly heavy duty stuff (opioids, antipsychotics, antiepileptics, that sorta stuff). Got kicked to me after his umpteenth ER trip because the ER doc felt something was off and he needed someone to look at the whole picture.
Factitious disorder by caregiver, or Munchausen by proxy. All of the original symptoms were parent reported, going back to about a year old. It had possibly started with a febrile seizure (fever induced seizure) in infancy, but this was never witnessed by anyone but mom she it’s unclear. She had been telling docs different things. She was convinced her son had all these disorders, told him he was going to die any day. He got a Make-A-Wish trip, donations, etc.
He was removed from her custody and taken off most of his meds. Within a few weeks he was out of the wheelchair playing basketball, no oxygen, super talkative and friendly, no behavior problems. He did have a pretty significant intellectual disability, but there’s no way to say if that was organic or the result of the prescription cocktail he had been fed all his life. Hopefully with some good therapy and a stable home, he can continue to make progress.
2. I’ve been tired as a mom, but not THIS tired.
Not a doctor, but am a UK based midwife.
Had a patient who had been in and out of hospital throughout her pregnancy with episodes of heavy bleeding. This was her 6th baby so she was a fairly well known patient in our unit. The issue was no one had ever seen her actively bleeding, she’d call saying that she had bled down the toilet but flushed it, and all the examinations we did came back completely normal with mostly no evidence of any bleed whatsoever, on occasions during speculum examinations we’d see the smallest amount of blood.
I was caring for her during a shift where she yet again called to say she was bleeding, walked into her room and found her jabbing around her vagina with a sharp object to make herself bleed. She had been doing it the entire pregnancy, the reason she gave – because she had 5 noisy children at home, needed some rest and knew we wouldn’t admit her to hospital if it wasn’t for a good reason. She would do it any time her being discharged home was mentioned. We ended up having to complete a perinatal mental health referral and consult with the safeguarding midwives as she was putting herself and baby at risk of serious harm.
1. You’ve got to learn to have a little fun I guess.
My brother was an EMT for two years and he told me this:
People will try to use the ambulance as a means for transportation from Fulton to Oswego (because the hospital is in Oswego), by faking seizures. Sometimes when the head EMT guy was feeling fun and knew that the person was faking, he’d say something like “man it’s weird that he’s having seizures but not peeing himself”. Apparently the person would kind of snap out of it for a second, weigh up the repercussions, then either pee themselves or stop faking. I thought that was hilarious.
Why are people like this?? I think some of them might have needed a mental eval.
If you’re a doctor, has this happened to you? Tell us your story in the comments!