Doctors Confess When They Lied To A Patient To Help Comfort Them In A Bad Situation
It’s hard to imagine that doctors—the very people we entrust our lives to—would ever lie to us. However, after reading the following stories, one might actually be able to justify the deed. Think about it: if a patient is freaking out, it is going to be harder to help them, which may cause a delay in care and lead to negative consequences.
Doctors have an obligation to help patients medically in the best way they can, and sometimes that means keeping things from them that they do not need to know. Read on and you might find it hard to disagree.
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#1 Surgery Was Not An Option
I really struggled to keep myself together. Afterward, I needed a moment in the supply closet to cry it out for a second. I had no idea the human body could breakdown so much without dying. I think about that woman sometimes and what led to her living like that. It still breaks my heart to think about her horrible situation.
#2 The Family Didn’t Need To Know How Low His Chances Of Survival Were
Five years ago, I spent six months working in a small Zambian hospital in the medical ward as part of an outreach program. I have done mostly family medicine and some surgery in my early days but I decided to mix life up a bit. The hospital was third-world—there were a few basic medications, rudimentary clinical tools, and a small lab on site which was usually out of operation.
There were no resuscitation tools whatsoever. HIV, TB, and malaria were rife—it would not be uncommon to encounter a death per day despite our best efforts. On one of my first days, there was an unconscious person carried in by a mob of locals. I could smell him before I saw him because he had been in a house fire and his skin was cooked.
It was completely black around his chest, face and over his legs. He was still breathing on his own and maintaining his airway, but we had no doubt that he had inhaled a lot of smoke. With no way to intubate or provide oxygen, we merely had to hope that he didn’t swell up and have to deal with the rest of the burns while he was unconscious.
Two colleagues who worked in the hospital came over urgently. We all kept our cool externally and got the nurses to translate to the man’s family that we were going to do everything we could to get him better. In reality, all three of us knew his chances at survival were in the single-digit percentages. We decided that due to the extent of his burns we were going to have to do an escharotomy (cutting the burned skin to prevent it from contracting).
Turns out, I had the most surgical experience, so despite having never done one before I gave it a go, hoping for the best. We got an IV into a neck vein and got fluids going. The local nurses dressed his burns. We gave him whatever pain relief we had. He was unconscious for a couple of days but eventually woke up. Each day we were expecting his kidneys to pack up, but to our surprise, he got better. He was with us for just over four months. He came out severely scarred but he had beaten the odds and survived.
#3 Get Your Teeth Cleaned Or Else
In dental school, I had an emergency patient come in complaining of sore gums. Upon examination, I found a massive calcified bridge behind her lower front teeth. She only had about three remaining lower teeth, but they were all connected with a whitish brown mineral deposit that was about the size of a golf ball.
She told us never had her teeth cleaned and she was probably 55 or so. I performed an emergency cleaning and she could speak so much better afterword. Of course, I had to play it off to her like her situation was normal, but in my years of practice, I had never seen a case that bad. Get your teeth cleaned people. Even if you can’t afford every six months, once a year or every other year is a heck of a lot better than never.
#4 It’s Really No Big Deal To Vomit Blood
#5 But It Doesn’t Happen All The Time
#6 Just Hum And Smile
A motorcyclist came in after he was hit by a car. He had gone over the hood, slid a few meters, and somehow landed on his butt sitting up. He slid across intersection mostly on his butt, getting serious road rash. Luckily, he was only a block from the hospital and ambulance. They packed him and brought him to the ER.
We ended up cutting off his chaps and began the cleanup of gravel and sand embedded in his skin. The attending paused, grabbed the saline, and irrigated the area while humming. I handed him some gauze to pack the wound and smiled at the patient who was under local anesthesia. I then went on break, went fetal and dry heaved.
#7 What Were Those Docs Saying Behind The Scenes?
I was playing soccer and noticed a little skin irritation underneath my arm. I thought it would go away but it developed into a weird little thing. It was about two inches in diameter and ended up growing into a collection of skin tags. I went to the doctor who didn’t have a clue what it was, so he sent me to a specialist.
The specialist didn’t seem to know what it was either. Four other doctors had to come in to take a look and were really interested. They took a ton of photos and told me they hadn’t seen anything like that before. They also couldn’t really offer any medication and said they would just monitor it. About a week later, the ‘skin tags’ developed little circles on the top that turned into scabs.
Then, the thing just kind of dried up and fell off me. It was freaking weird and to this day I have no idea what it was. I was not comforted.
#8 “Of Course” He’ll Walk Again
I had to have my leg rebuilt after a car accident. After months of waiting, I was eventually sent to Duke University for my surgery. My surgeon was supposed to be the best orthopedic surgeon in the country, I think he used to work for the Baltimore Ravens. Anyway, all the doctors from my hospital at home were very unsure if I would even have a functioning leg, let alone walk normally again.
During my first appointment at Duke, the doctor told me it was really not a big deal and he would have me fixed almost good as new. I honestly thought he was just trying to be nice and optimistic, but he was serious. Five months later, I was walking and learning how to run again. He said it was one of the most complicated surgeries he had to do and a group of surgeons even flew in to observe him do it.
#9 Playing It Down On The Need For Speed
As a medical student doing my first placement in the emergency department, I was waiting outside the triage room to ask the nurse something. I was the lowest-ranked person in the department. I knew a lot about the Kreb cycle, but not a whole lot about medicine. A young man came up to me. “Sorry to disturb you,” he whispered.
He then unwrapped a towel from his hand and showed me his thumb, which he had dropped a loaded barbell onto. It was shattered, just flattened, with splinters of bone coming out. I stared at it. He stared at it. Then I told him: “Oh yes, no problem at all; you better take a seat and I’ll make sure someone sees you right away.”
#10 Comfort Your Patients Folks
#11 He Didn’t End Up Making It To His Wedding On Time
I had a saddle pulmonary embolism two weeks before my scheduled wedding. My quite seasoned heart surgeon seemed pretty confident that I’d be okay, and he even said he’d get me to my wedding on time. Long story short, I was in the hospital for about a month due to complications. Several weeks later, when I was visiting my heart surgeon for a follow-up, he told me he’d only ever seen two other people as sick as I was. Those two didn’t survive.
#12 Maybe It Was His Doctor’s Pokerface That Saved His Life
#13 Easy As Pie
#14 The Flatulence To End All Flatulence
#15 Further Than A White Lie
#16 Nothing More Than Your Average Nose Bleed
I’m an oncology nurse. The other day, I had a patient who had a nose bleed that just would not stop. I gave him an extra infusion of platelets, vitamin K, and multiple doses of Afrin (a nasal spray which causes vasoconstriction). It would stop for maybe 20 minutes before it would start bleeding like a faucet again.
The whole time, I kept saying, “Nosebleeds are common, it’s probably the dry air from the heater,” etc. I ended up personally holding his nose for over an hour straight while we waited from someone from ENT to pack it. He lost so much blood that he needed a blood transfusion. My arm was so sore and the patient looked like he had been impaled twice over from all the blood on his clothes.
#17 Scary Things Happen When You Never Go To The Dentist
#18 That’s Not Where Your Phone Goes
I had a patient come in with complaints about severe lower abdominal pain. He told me that he had something stuck in his “prison pocket.” Before I could ask him what it was, he bent over and showed me a cord sticking out. I told him, “Don’t trip, I’m sure the doctor can help you out with that. You’ll be alright.”
I came to find out that it was the prong of the phone charger. As I was trying to comfort him, I started to hear a vibrating sound. I asked him if he heard it too. He said, “It’s the phone inside me that’s stuck with the charger.” It wasn’t just a regular flip phone either, it was a large smartphone. I have no idea what possessed him to do that.
#19 The Only Worse Ones They See Are The Dead Ones
I had a guy who hurt himself under the chin with a weapon. He had actually done it like, 16 hours prior to the family finding him. He was still alive, conscious and alert to what was going on. His jaw looked like the alien’s jaw in Predator. The family was freaking out, of course. I had to tell them that we saw worse cases often, which wasn’t necessarily true. He lived for almost a day after shooting himself, then died in the back of my ambulance.
#20 His First Live Patient Was A Success
#21 The Nice Ones Are The Easiest To Lie To
I was working as a CNA in a nursing home. There was a lady who had stage four bed sores (all the way to the bone) and the treatment nurse wanted me to look after her because I was a calming figure and really good with the residents that needed a little support. She had me roll her on her side, then carefully peel back the bandage.
I was staring down in half horror and half fascination as I could clearly see the bone, ligaments, muscle, and layers of skin. I was gawking hard when I heard a small, frail voice say, “Is it getting better?” I turned on my biggest, friendliest smile and replied, “It does! It looks SO much better. Does it feel better?”
She smiled and I changed the subject to her grandkids (she had a picture of them). I hadn’t seen anything like her case before, but she was such a lovely lady. I started looking forward to helping her after that.
#22 Just Tell Her It’s A Yeast Infection
I work in gynecology and had to chaperone a male doctor for a pelvic exam. What I saw was horrifying. That day, I learned that if you smile while humming, it helps suppress your gag reflex.
#23 Everybody Goes #2 (Just Not Usually In The Bed)
#24 Breastfeeding Can Be Perilous
I had a first-time mother who was having difficulty nursing because she was chafing pretty badly from her baby’s teething. Before showing me and her gynecologist the problem, she apologized that I had to see it, probably because I’m a male. I told her not to worry because I had seen plenty before, especially in the ER.
While it was not the worst thing I’d ever seen, I don’t think I’ve seen skin so badly chafed before. It looked like she might have had the beginnings of mastitis on one of them since it was red, warm, and very tender. It just looked raw and extremely painful. I just kept on a neutral face and assisted the gynecologist where I could.
#25 The Reality Would Certainly Not Have Been As Calming
I’m a pediatric nurse and triaged a young girl with a rash. The mom had been to several doctors and they didn’t know what it was. I recognized it right away: it was Stevens-Johnson syndrome. I remained calm and the patient was flown to a burn center. Unfortunately, she didn’t make it. I had only seen it once before and it was fatal for that patient too.