Doctors are medical professionals, and they've seen and know it all. However, that doesn't stop some patients from trying to pull a fast one on them. These doctors have first-hand experience of that happening.
"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. We did this 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, his 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!"
"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 Munchhausen 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, and 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 wasn't seeking pain meds (except to sell) really, she was just as happy with antibiotics or stool softeners. Anything worked, 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 five minutes, she called the insurance and claimed it was 10 minutes, she called the pharmacy and claimed it was 30 minutes, then she called 911 and told them she woke up on the floor after loosing consciousness for four hours.
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 really messed up his childhood with Munchhausen 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 wasn't looking for a wife, he was gay, but she refused to accept that.
Working with her was so miserable that I took a couple of years off from any and all healthcare after that."
"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 we went in to the room without knocking. They were discharged home after a conversation regarding abuse of medical services."
"I'm a 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 eight 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 doctor 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, so it's unclear. She had been telling doctors 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 all of the prescriptions he had been fed all his life. Hopefully with some good therapy and a stable home, he can continue to make progress."
"I'm a nurse for an ophthalmologist. 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."
"Had a patient who had been in and out of hospital throughout her pregnancy with episodes of heavy bleeding. This was her sixth 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. I walked into her room and found her jabbing around her lady parts with a sharp object to make herself bleed. She had been doing it the entire pregnancy. The reason she gave - because she had 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."
"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 GOING TO 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."
"I had a patient who worked in a hospital (janitor) so he knew enough to fake a bit. He was seeking pain meds, complaining of chest pain, wanting morphine. He was worked up for everything cardiac and was fine. Then he tried to claim GI discomfort when he was being discharged. Cleared again for everything. Faked chest pain again. Cleared again.
Now he’s my patient. I’m a new face. He’s telling me he’s having abdominal pain. I call the doctor, knowing this guys history. He says he’ll be up to see him soon. This patient wants a ginger soda (some stomach ache). I decide to go to lunch. My coworker comes into the lunch room, disgusted. This guy had taken a dump in a basin and then dumped the ginger soda over it and tried to tell her he’d had fecal vomiting. He obviously needed dilaudid right now for the pain. I walked into his room and sure enough, a pile of poop in a puddle of ginger soda. I told him I’d have to take away his food and drinks and we’d have to put an NG down. Suddenly he changed his tune. He admitted to faking it."
"My cousin got glasses. Her 7-year-old little sister also wanted glasses, because she thought it was so cool to wear them.
So she started telling her teachers she couldn't read what was on the chalkboard. And she'd squint at home, and go incredibly close to the TV to watch things because she said she couldn't see things clearly. Her parents got worried and took her to the doctor.
She read everything wrong on the vision test. Everyone seemed convinced that she needed glasses. But the doctor was a little concerned because the tests indicated she needed really thick glasses, and usually that wasn't the case unless there was a family history of vision issues. Her parents both had 20/20 vision, and her sister only had astigmatism. They all realized she was faking it.
So the doctor told her parents in front of her that she'd need some pretty intense eye surgery so she'd be able to see without glasses. They even wheeled in a machine to make it convincing to say they could do the surgery right then and there.
She freaked out, confessed to faking it all and started to cry. She got grounded for a while."
"I'm a 4th year medical student
On my ER rotation, a trauma came in from a woman that the had been arrested. During the drive the patient 'banged' her head four times against the window of the police car and then went unresponsive.
She came to us with a bruise over her forehead and unresponsive. We all smelled the lies, but the patient was a great actor. She didn’t even flinch during the digital rectal exam (which is standard for all patients that come in through the trauma bay). Though some nurses said that they caught her 'peeking' at us when would leave the room.
We ended up getting a CT scan (which was normal), and was even considering intubating her to secure her airway when our attending finally walked over to her, opened her eyelids and held them open while telling her to wake up. Finally, she started fighting to close her eyes and the jig was up. The doctor called her out and she proceeded to start screaming at us. She was much more pleasant when she was pretending to have a brain injury."
"Audiologist (hearing specialist), have worked in private sector with legal claims, and with the V.A. handling veterans' claims of hearing loss.
With those two populations, having people faking hearing loss is pretty common.
Now, as a professional, for me the hearing test starts when I call the person's name from the waiting room. In a normal voice I call them, if they answer I already know that they're normal/no worse than mild loss. This was the case with this guy. He answered and came in, we had a normal conversation. So, case history over, time to test, I give the instructions over the headphones at a reasonable 50 decibels (dB).
'Raise you hand when you hear the tone.'
50dB tone, should be easy and clear, but he doesn't raise his hand. I go up. And up, and up. Finally, I'm putting a 100dB tone in his ear, he's flinching from pain it's so loud, but he doesn't raise his hand to indicate he's heard the tone, even with re-instruction. I immediately know what I'm dealing with. I have taught entire classes on how to spot and try to get estimated true results from people trying to fake it.
Long story short, I wrote a report outlining all his inconsistencies and faking behaviors. The thing that made this one so memorable, is that we had such a pleasant conversation before. He was a fire chief, I have firefighters in my family, it was one of those where you think if it wasn't for professional/patient appropriate distance, we could hang and be friends. But then, this guy was determined to get a disability rating, and it just made me so mad."
"I was an EMT and had a frequent flyer who rotated through various chief complaints, one which was complete blindness-- emphasis on complete. We did our duty, of course: got him on board, took vitals, BLS'd him to the nearest hospital. But we occasionally had a bit of fun with him.
One of the blindness calls, we noted that he walked a rather narrow and windy path from his trailer to the rig without any issue. Once onboard the rig, when asked for his insurance card, he fingered through his wallet and fetched it from among a mass of cards without issue. When asked direct questions, he met our gaze and followed it when our heads moved.
When I pointed all this out to him, his only response was to quickly look at something over my shoulder and stammer through, 'N-no... I'm blind.'
Ok, our mistake then. Off we go."
"I'm an EM doc. I have seen lots of weak pseudo seizures, those are fairly common. Some of those people are straight up seeking IV benzos, but most are people with seizure disorders who have some psych issues and are coming by it honestly. They're just sad confused people who don't know how to handle stress for the most part.
I've seen all sorts of weird people faking symptoms. The most devious was a guy I'll call 'Steve.' Steve had to be in the medical field somehow. Probably a nurse or tech. He was fairly tall and skinny. He claimed to have Marfan Syndrome, a rare connective tissue disease that makes you tall and skinny and puts you at a higher risk for an aortic dissection. You can think of aortic dissections as the main pipe carrying blood starting to break. They're bad.
Steve didn't only claim to have Marfan's, he stated that he had a dissection in the past and it was done by Dr BFD at BFD Medical Center (real surgeon and real institution). He then would come in with a classic story for dissection. He'd say he had a tearing chest pain radiating to the back.
Steve took it to the next level. He'd flex his arm when the blood pressure cuff was on one arm, then relax on the other. This caused vastly different blood pressure readings in each arm, and this is another classically taught finding in dissection. In addition to this, the man would say that he had an anaphylactic reaction to contrast dye. He did this in an attempt to force us to pretreat him with Benadryl and steroids, which took eight hours. During those eight hours, he'd request opiates after opiates before getting his CTA done. He also would get nauseated, requesting phenergan.
For those who don't know, IV dilaudid, phenergan, and Benadryl is the best ride the hospital can really put you on. They all potentiate each other. Highly reviewed by opiate junkies everywhere.
I got Steve on his third visit. The two prior visits showed no dissections. Steve was dumb enough to come in during normal business hours, and I managed to get ahold of this surgeon. Surgeon said he'd never taken care of the guy, and that he'd gotten multiple calls about him.
I still offered the CTA to the patient. I told him he'd be getting zero opiates though. He left in a fit.
Forget Steve. No one has seen him since. I'm sure he's at a some new hospital now."
"I’m a nurse. I work in acute rehab, so patients come to us to do physical therapy and recover from surgeries, illnesses, etc. Had a patient who played us good.
So this dude was ready to go home and medically stable but very, very anxious. He would always ask for me to recheck his vitals and blood sugar, always come up with new concerns like his hand is twitching, or he feels dizzy, or he’s having blurry vision. I thought I was pretty good at ruling out his concerns and calming him down.
Then one day I check his vitals and his pulse is quite low, like 48. Everything else is good so I’m not concerned, I tell him I’ll recheck in a few minutes. I come back and he’s looking not so good. Pulse still low, oxygen quite low, and he’s just woozy and slow to respond. I get my charge nurse in and we’re worried about an opiate overdose. We discuss this and the patient’s breathing gets slower and shallower. Call the MD, give him some narcan, call EMS. They arrive and now he’s nearly unresponsive, barely reacts to the sternal rub. They give him more narcan with no effect, so now we’re thinking rule out stroke. He has the slightest droop on one side of his mouth. Was that always there? Darn, did I miss it? I give them report and they rush him to the hospital, where they do a very thorough work up because he’s high risk for a lot of issues.
We followed up the next day, and nothing was wrong with him! The guy must’ve heard me mention his pulse and thought This is my chance!
I think he held his breath when I took his O2 sat, and started dropping his mouth once we mentioned stroke. Probably skipped lunch since his blood sugar was low too. All because he didn’t want to go home. Now he’s banned from our facility."
"There was a patient at an inpatient psychiatric facility for suicidal ideation. She constantly insisted that she had a mass on her chest, and demanded to be physically examined only by male doctors. When the psychiatrist I was rotating under declined to perform a physical exam, she asked me to do it during my daily patient interview. I also declined physical exam, but had a bit of a hunch to check her medical records.
It turned out she had an ultrasound done a week before that found only normal tissue without masses. However, apparently this lady had frequented many doctor's offices with various complaints of an unspecific nature and would usually focus on her chest or southern region complaints when she visited male physician's offices.
We diagnosed her with factitious disorder (formerly known as Munchhausen syndrome) and histrionic personality disorder. It seems her goal was mostly attention from medical professionals (she had lots of issues), but we also had to be careful to make sure she wasn't fishing for a lawsuit. Patients like her are why doctors document everything meticulously.
So the patient wouldn't admit to making things up all the time. According to the psychiatrist I was working with, she didn't actually believe any of her 'health problems' exist and her primary goal was the attention from medical professionals. If she actually believed she was sick, we would have diagnosed her with illness anxiety disorder, commonly known as hypochondria."
"When I was in prison, there was a guy who wanted to go to medical range because it isn’t as strict as a regular range. He told the doctors he felt like he was having a heart attack. They called for a medical emergency and people came rushing into the range and we got locked down. He pretended to fall on the ground and the prisons doctor came strolling in not hurried at all.
When he came in, he came over to the guy laying on the ground and put his fingers on his neck and said, 'I can’t feel a pulse!'
The guards looked scared, and the doctor opened his bag and took his clip board out and started tapping on it and making other noises and yelled out 'I’m going to shock him!'
The guy immediately sat up and started to fake gasp (I think he was holding his breath) and then the doctor was like 'Freaking idiot, put him in segregation on suicide watch and make sure he’s being checked on in quarters.'
Just to be clear, suicide watch SUCKS. You get absolutely NOTHING in your cell but a dress made out up rip resistant fabric. He was there for two weeks and didn’t try any nonsense like that again."