Although many people go to medical professionals in the case of a real emergency, some do not follow this same standard. Whether it be for the "need" of narcotics or just craving attention, people attempt to scam the system. In this piece, medical professionals share their most outlandish stories of a patient faking it. These stories were edited for clarity.
"My mom had a patient who said she had passed kidney stones at home and needed painkillers. The lady actually brought in the kidney stones as proof. Patients don’t usually do this and the stones were way bigger than people can pass on their own. My mom sent them to the lab and they came back as 'geological origin.' Aka, crazy lady picked up small stones from outside to try to get medicine."
"Woman who was eating her breakfast (a slice of bread) had a fight with her husband and felt something stuck in her throat and started to claim she was suffocating. Her first care physician called fake news but asked us EMTs to have a look at her. We make a laryngoscopy and there was nothing there, not in her throat, not in the back of the tongue, not in the larynx nothing that made her present these symptoms.
But her husband, who was mad at her before, was now worried sick, loving and attentive of her. We told her and showed her the video of the laryngoscopy, and she insisted she felt she was choking, so we handed her to endoscopy for a full endoscopy and nothing, the slice of bread was gone, figures...
After a whole day in the hospital, I guess she just fed up and started feeling normal again, and of she went to keep blackmailing her husband for ever and ever until the end of times."
"Had a patient fake a ruptured ectopic pregnancy to get narcotics. Says she was diagnosed with an ectopic at another hospital and given medication to end it. Came in to our hospital in extreme abdominal pain, rolling around, yelling, had genital bleeding, the whole nine yards. Gave her a bunch of pain medication so we could get an ultrasound. Ultrasound showed nothing. Urine pregnancy test showed nothing. Beta HCG was 0..... Turns out she was conveniently on her period which made the whole thing very convincing. Got records from the other hospital, patient had been there yesterday but was not pregnant for them, nor was she diagnosed with an ectopic pregnancy. Definitely was a 'wow she just made up this entire thing.'
We had a lovely conversation about all the results. She ended up screaming at me, threatening to sue me for all I'm worth and stormed out. Jokes on her I'm worth -$200K of student loan debt."
"Had a mother come in and INSIST that her child had Silver-Russell syndrome. You can go read on it. It's not that easy to fake, as it's a bunch of metabolic conditions mixed with congenital abnormalities.
The kid was small, but not that small (around 6th percentile). He didn't weight much (5th percentile). All of this, with a right arm length 2 cm more than the left side, were borderline criteria for Silver-Russell. Did genetic testing, which came back negative, but 30% of cases are negative.
So the deciding factor was one of the 'soft' criteria of hypoglycemia. Once she heard about this (she printed out 30-40 articles on the disease), she came back with the kid in a coma. But when the kid was in the hospital, he was never hypoglycemic. He went home, and came back in a coma a few weeks later. Again, as soon as he was eating normally at the hospital, he was never hypoglycemic.
She starved her child into comas repeatedly for the diagnosis of Silver-Russell. She was also a 'bougon,' people who live off welfare and make a game out of it. By the way, she was in a wheelchair when at the hospital. Once I had enough of her lies and walked into the room after only knocking once. She was walking around normally and jumped into the wheelchair as soon as she saw me.
I believe it was for money since in Canada/Quebec, you get money when your child has a genetic disability... God, if it was legal, I would have slapped some sense into that woman."
"Had a patient fake having a stroke. Even received the clot buster medication, went through all the CTs and MRIs, the whole shebang. Faked the one-sided weakness, severe speech and language deficits. Didn't help that her speech/language errors were grossly inconsistent. And that she kept forgetting which side was supposed to be her weaker side when working with PT/OT. Or that she was caught Googling aphasia symptoms on her phone (despite being completely unable to read simple words at the evaluation). She was trying to get on disability. And wouldn't you know it, as soon as she was told workman's comp won't pay and that she would not be able to drive for an indefinite amount of time (after just having such a severe stroke, after all) the next day her speech and language symptoms were completely resolved. A Christmas miracle in July.
A couple years later, I see a woman for the exact same thing. Literally talking on the phone, chatting it up with family present but as soon as I come in, her language falls apart. Even the elderly mother comments, 'It's so strange how she was just talking to us just fine but you have her try to read or say a couple words aloud and it's impossible! Why is that?'
'...I'll be right back.'
I check her chart and pull up old notes. My old notes. It's the same woman as before. I tell the physician about her faking, and he's on the same page as me.
The best part was walking back into the room and having her ask, 'So when can I get outta here and start driving again?'
'Oh dear, no!' I wave the wasted time of a fake evaluation I just had to complete with her. 'From the deficits I saw on your evaluation, as well as PT/OT documenting fluctuating vision issues, there's no way any doctor will let you on the road for quite a while without some rehab prior!'
The look on her face a when I said that made it almost worth all the time I had to waste on her jerking me around with her malingering.
I'm sure symptoms magically resolved the next day."
"Called to a bar for a seizure. Waitress says she delivered his bill, and he suddenly went to the floor having a seizure. Look over at him, and he’s laying there flopping his arms and legs around, as he looks us right in the eye and screams over and over, 'I’m having a seizure!!' We tell him to stand up, so we can take him to the ambulance. He does and starts walking to the door. We tell him to hold up, gotta pay your bill first. Man was he mad at us. Waitress tells us he does this all the time. Well, not today. He still took a ride to the hospital, though. The hospital has good egg salad sandwiches."
"I had a woman come into triage in labor and delivery. We ruled her out for breaking her water. She was mad that she wasn't going to get induced and be delivered. So after I left the room, she flooded the bed, the floor and herself with tap water. Literally gallons and gallons of water, it was leaking out from under the door. So much water. It was like that scene in Coneheads. She said it was her water breaking. Again, quickly ruled her out and told her she needed to go home. She subsequently peed the bed before leaving."
"My mom had a 'frequent flyer' at the emergency room she worked at. This lady was constantly in unimaginable pain over everything. She got a splinter in her finger and that constituted a 10 on the pain scale, and she needed painkillers to deal with it. She was a known substance abuser as well. She had been caught stealing needles and shoving them up under her huge sweaty rolls. The only reason my mom found out was because she came back in to place the EKG pads, and to do so, she had to lift her chest up to place the pad. When she did, the needles rolled out.
From that point on, they had to have a member of security watching her any time a nurse or doctor left the room. She also had a massive arrest record and there were times the cops would bring her to the ER instead of an ambulance."
"ER doctor. Had the worst person in the world with fake seizures that could only be cured by dilaudid (the most potent opiate that can be administered in the hospital IV, usually). Seizures aren’t treated by opiates. This lady was insufferable, and she knew all the rules. She would make sure her enabling husband (IQ 50) came in, so she had a driver, so she could get narcotics. If we didn’t give narcs he would shut that place down screaming and threatening. She would also spy on the parking lot to see which doctors were working because dilaudid.
Well, one day I had it. She had brought her son (IQ normal) to the ER (he had a learners permit, she reassured me) and she started fake seizing and screaming. I just let her go. Then she got threatening, so I called security, and I was the first person to ever get her removed. She then proceeds to walk out the doors with her son and not fifteen minutes later, she is back in the ER as a trauma, full collar, backboard and all. She says she’s going to sue me, that she went outside, had a seizure, fell, and is in more pain. Dilaudid, dilaudid, dilaudid.
So I stop her right there and walk to security around the corner and look at the security tape. She very clearly looked around, made sure no one was looking, then gently laid down in a mangled position. In the video it looked like her son said, 'Forget this,' and he literally walks away and walks several miles home. I went and cleared her from her c-collar and backboard after calling police. They came and didn’t do anything. She was back two days later."
"Patient comes in saying she has terrible abdominal pain, 10/10. I say okay... And start to examine her. She immediately starts screaming the moment I touch her belly. But look, I've seen patients in terrible pain, and nobody has ever yelled in pain with their eyes open. She wasn't even tensing or anything.
It was a really sad case though, she has a history of coming in saying she was pregnant when the urine and blood test was clearly negative. In one case she even tried to steal a pregnant patient's urine (she got caught pretty fast). She was on psych follow-up, not sure what the diagnosis was but my guess would have been Munchhausen's. Anyway, we sent her home without pain medicine.
My second patient was a man with a chronic cough. Asked him, 'Are you smoking?' And he says no. I examine him and there's a pack of smokes right in his chest pocket."
"We get called to a fall in the women's bathroom at Walmart. We walk in, and the manager is FREAKING OUT. We go into the bathroom to find a white female face up on the floor - I'm guessing she weighs at least 350 lbs; there were two friends of hers standing in there with her. I ask her what happened; she says she slipped on a puddle and fell, hurting her back. I look all over the bathroom floor; there's NO water on the floor.
I ask the manager AND the patient's friends, 'Do you see water on the floor?' They all said no. I then tell the patient, 'There's no water on the floor, ma'am.'
She says, 'I'm lying on top of it.' We're going to have to roll her to her side in order to get a backboard under her and pick her up; I explain that to her. As we roll her to her side, I check her back for any obvious injuries; I then check her clothing AND the floor she was lying on - nothing was wet.
I have the manager (who was grinning from ear to ear at this point) and the patient's friends look. 'Do you see water on the floor? Are her clothes wet?' They all said no. We then roll the patient onto the board, pick her up, and place her on a stretcher.
At this point, I tell the patient, 'I'm going to be writing up paperwork for this call and your treatment. Part of what is going to be written up is the fact that you said you slipped on a wet floor, and that no water was found either on the floor or soaked into your clothing. This is standard; I have to write up what I'm told in addition to what I see. What you need to understand is this - if you happen to decide to take Walmart to court, they can request a copy of my run report, and it's going to show what you said and what I found. They can also summon me to testify, and if they do, I'm going to tell them what you told me and what I saw, the manager saw, and what your friends saw. That being said, do you want to keep dragging this out and go to the hospital, or do you want to just get up from my stretcher and be done with it?' She chose to get up and leave."
"I am a firefighter and we have quite a few calls about people faking medical problems. The most obvious call that I have ever been on when someone was faking was a woman that looked to be in her twenties acting SUPER belligerent. The first call we had was at about 1pm.
We arrived at scene to this woman having 'seizures' but we could easily tell she wasn't because she was making direct eye contact when we were talking to her and she was even responding to our questions while she was having one of her episodes. We never come out and say they you are faking, but we do ask if you are pretending to have seizures and if you say no then we do our best to try to make you go to the hospital. Well her family and her said that they will just keep her home and watch her and if it happened anymore they would just take her to the hospital their self.
We had another call from the same address about 3 hours later for the same thing. 'Female having seizures.' So we arrive at scene again kind of angry since she woke us up for having pretend seizures again. When we walked back in the house, she was laying in the floor again flopping around like a fish in a sea of all different kind of bottles.
This time she gets an attitude with us when we ask her if she was really having a seizure, and we weren't having any of it. My captain got on the radio and called to have a deputy come out and assist us with dealing with the crazy wasted lady. Next thing you know, when the deputy pulled up in the driveway a few minutes later she was up running around, screaming at everyone because she said that we aren't giving her all the medications that we are supposed to give her. So long story short, she was told she could either go with the deputy to jail or she could go with the ambulance. She said that she would rather go with the ambulance.
When we got the stretcher brought inside for her, she started saying that it was all a joke and that we needed to get off her property, but she then got into one of the paramedic's face and started screaming swears at her, so we all got a hold of her and put her on the stretcher and then strapped her down with all the straps that we had just to keep her still. The deputy said that we better take her to the hospital just to get checked out, so that is what we did, and she screamed and cursed at the paramedics all the way there."
"I was a patient in the ER a couple of years ago (with meningitis), and listened to this conversation outside my cubicle:
Doctor: 'So what symptoms are you having?'
Patient: 'Well...my head hurts, and my vision is blurry. Really, my limbs kinda feel like they're on fire.'
Doctor: (In tone that indicates he believes this patient as far as he can throw him) 'Really.'
Patient: 'Yeah. I was at (other local hospital's) ER yesterday, and they said there's nothing wrong with me, but I still feel like things are not right, so I thought I'd come here.'
Doctor: 'And when you have these symptoms, what medication usually helps?'
Doctor: 'Really. Are you sure you're not substance-seeking?' (It was 6am. I had long reached the conclusion this doctor was bored with a quiet ER on a Sunday morning and was kind of messing with this guy.)
Patient: 'Noooo! No, I just want to make sure that other hospital didn't miss stuff. Maybe I need an EKG. Or something.'
Doctor: (I can hear the rolling eyes through the curtain.) 'See, you're telling me all this stuff. Can you understand why I think you're totally substance-seeking and am not in the slightest bit inclined to give you opiates?'
Patient: 'What about Percoset?'
Me: (Feeling like I'm dying from the meningitis headache and neck ache that hasn't been diagnosed yet, so I haven't been given any pain medications at all) snort with laughter, ;If he can't have any opiates, can I?'"
"We were an infantry unit about a year out from a deployment to Iraq when this guy showed up. One day we were holding some training for the Joe's using CPR dummies. Some of these dummies were over 150 lbs and are used to simulate carrying dead weight. We were moving them around the area when we heard a crash from the other room and a loud scream. We rush in and Navy Corpsman was sitting there holding his arm and wincing like he got hit by truck. He made up some vague story about pulling a muscle when the dummy fell or something.
For the next month or so this guy would walk around with his arm (right arm) held out bent at the elbow (L shaped) with his palm up and his hand frozen like a claw. Imagine your arm in a sling but twist the hand into a claw and hold it palm up and you get the idea. It was hilarious. One day he gave my buddy a ride in his car, and he used his good hand to put his clawed hand on the shift between the seats and used his good hand to pull that hand, so he could switch to D. I'm laughing just thinking of my buddy laughing his butt off telling me this story over drinks later that night. This guy milked that 'injury' for everything it was worth. His fake injury gave him the perfect excuse to buzz off: 'I'm at the hospital,' or 'I have an appointment with orthopedics,' or some other excuse.
He eventually did get his medical discharge which meant he had another reason to buzz off because he had all sorts of appointments with the discharge people. And the rest of the platoon was too busy getting ready for a combat deployment to babysit him so....whatever. I always figured that if someone is in the military and wants out its better to give them the boot. Keep them in and all it does is mess up morale because all they do is sham and complain. You get an older guy doing this, it puts bad thoughts into the younger/newer guys. So forget them. Get em' outta' here. I don't care. The only thing that bugs me about this guy is that I know that this dude used every piece of knowledge he had, which was actually pretty considerable, to get more disability than dudes who got messed up on combat ops during our deployment."
"I worked as a nurse on a cardiac floor. Chest pain was the biggest thing people would use to substance seek, because if nitro isn't working, we also give oxygen and morphine while turning it into an emergency situation. We even have an acronym for it. MONA: Morphine, oxygen, nitroglycerin, aspirin. All are interventions for a heart attack.
When you have a heart attack, your cardiac tissue releases these markers. Kind of distress signal. We can pick these up on a blood test. Sometimes a heart attack can be seen on an EKG.
If a patient had a history of negative tests and/or multiple admissions and all their vitals were normal and I suspected they were faking it, I would ask them if it hurt when I put my hand on their chest. They would always say yes, and then I could happily inform them that this likely wasn't cardiac but muscular pain since heart attacks won't cause pain when your chest is touched. I would suggest a warm compress and some Tylenol and their pain was always mysteriously gone within seconds of my announcing that it couldn't possibly be related to your heart.
After a while, you do get very used to the signs and symptoms of people actually having a heart attack. There's just no faking that level of panic or the look on their face."
"When I wanted to be a physical therapist, I volunteered at one of my local clinics. We had a lady who claimed she was in excruciating pain. She couldn’t walk more than 5 feet without literally screaming in pain in the clinic. She couldn’t even move her toes without yelling profanities. She kept talking about how her meds ran out and she needed more. She also started talking about how her whole family thought she was an addict, but she swore wasn’t.
I started feeling for her a little, she seemed nice and like she was going through some mess.
But then once the doctor walked out of the room, she and I got to talking about music. I told her my uncle was in a blue grass band, and she mentioned how much she LOVED bluegrass.
She loved it so much that the prior weekend, she and her husband spent 14 hours at a festival. She was tired from carrying chairs around and dancing. And they were traveling to go to another one, the day after her appointment.
When I asked her if she had any pain during the festival, she said, 'Oh none at all. It was a fantastic weekend,' and then realized she gave herself up and got real quiet."