Health Care Workers Talk About the Times When Patients Faked Illnesses and Injuries


I’d say it’s a pretty ballsy move to try to pretend you’re sick with an actual doctor, but what do I know? Parents, teachers, and bosses: yes, of course. And you should be doing that. But doctors? Wow.

But I guess it’s pretty common, based on these tales.

Here are some entertaining stories from AskReddit.

1. The long con.

“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!”

2. Demanded a biopsy.

“Dermatologist here.

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.”

3. I can’t move my legs.

“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.”

4. A WTF moment.

“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 licence 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.”

5. Fooled!

“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.”

6. I need a ride.

“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.”

7. Good times!

“I worked at a detox with a bunch of people who liked to exaggerate their symptoms for more meds. Now some were actually withdrawing really bad, but some wanted a bed and free drugs.

There was this girl who was trying to raise her blood pressure so she could get some anti anxiety meds. We do vitals every 4 hours, so when she saw us with the cart, she immediately went to the bathroom for an unknown reason. When the bathroom blinds are open you can see into them from the stairs by the entrance. The patient was doing lots of jumping jacks in her bathroom. So when it was time to take her vitals, she came out sweating. Of course we told her if she had high blood pressure, she couldn’t smoke, so she promptly freaked out because she wanted the meds AND to smoke.

She came back a few months later actually wanting to be sober. I mentioned the jumping jacks and we laughed about it. She’s doing much better now.

Good times.”

8. Holding back on purpose…

“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.”

9. That did the trick!

“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.”

10. I’m blind!

“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. But, I’m famous.

“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.”

12. Wrong leg.

“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.”

13. Unbelievable.

“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.”

14. Disabling back pain…while playing rugby.

“I’m a nurse. We had a guy who had to come in every 3 months to get a medical certificate to say he couldn’t work at his retail job due to severe disabling back pain. He was receiving large amounts of insurance money for this condition. After the Dr had done his usual examination and questions and signed it off the guy asks the doctor to check his shoulder which doc does and asks how he injured it?

Guy says playing rugby for a competitive team. Really says doc? How long have you been playing for them ? Guy has been playing and training the whole time. Doc puts this info on insurance form . Doc loses his shit in staff room laughing. Next week the patient loses his shit in reception because his insurance has been cancelled.”

15. Is that what I think it is?

“ER nurse. Bringing a patient back to a room who said he had kidney stones.

I had him stop at the bathroom and get a urine sample. Dude comes out with with the specimen cup that literally has a piece of concrete in it. Looked him in the eye expecting some sort of joke.

He. Was. Serious.

I threw it away and walked his dumbass back to the waiting room to contemplate his stupidity.”

16. I suddenly feel much better.

“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!”

Like I said…BALLSY.

Have you ever tried to convince a doctor you were sick when you most definitely were NOT?

Please tell us about it in the comments. We need some good laughs!