Doctors Describe How A Patient's Lie Nearly Cost Them Their Life
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Not everyone tells their doctor the truth, whether out of embarrassment or a lack of trust. This can have some pretty big impacts on treatment outcomes, though, especially in an emergency.

Reddit user u/GlassCoyote asked:

"Doctors, when did a patients lie nearly end up killing them?"


When patients lie and say they haven't eaten anything prior to elective surgery when they have. I caught a patient snaffling biscuits that her partner had brought in for her because we are "so cruel" to deny her food. People can die from aspirating stomach contents during a GA.



How about the opposite? I've moved a lot and when I visit a new doctor they often try to answer my health history for me.

'Drinking? Smoking? Exercise and diet? Meh. You're thin. So moderate, no, regular, healthy.'

None of that is accurate, but when I correct them I get 'Oh. So is this a cry for help?'

What? No. I just want you to have the facts.



One of my patients was smoking in the bathroom while on oxygen. Could've ended very badly for him and others in the hospital



My teenage brother had the opposite to most of these stories.

He came home after being out drinking with friends, raided the fridge and went to bed. A little later he comes out panicking to my parents that he's having trouble breathing, is feeling dizzy, and has a bunch of other alarming symptoms.

They rush him to the ER and from what they tell me the staff were yelling at him to tell them what drugs he'd taken, even though he was adamant he hadn't taken anything. They wouldn't believe him, my parents were begging him to tell them, but he insisted he hadn't.

I'm not sure of the rest of the details but it turns out he had developed a nut allergy he wasn't aware of, and had eaten something that was causing him to go into anaphylaxis.



Social Worker at a children's hospital. We have kids coming in through our resuscitation room that have been seizing and are unconscious with no prior history. I'm constantly trying to get parents to tell me if there is a possibility that their toddler might have ingested something, "Does your kid have access to cannabis? Could they have eaten some?". Parents never want to admit it to doctors and so I'm always on a fact finding mission. As a social worker parents are either glad I'm there or they think I'm going to take their kids away...

PSA - cannabis can effect children in horrible, shut down your ability to breathe, kind of ways!



Nurse on an ortho unit. This particular patient was a fresh post-op joint replacement. They woke up in the middle of the night going crazy. He was insisting he had to leave. He was seeing things. We were on the 6th floor and he tried going down the back stairwell. There was no reasoning with this dude. He was straight up determined to leave.

Turns out he was detoxing from alcohol. He had lied to both his doctor and the nurse that admitted him about his alcohol use. When you're a heavy user like he was, quitting cold turkey can kill you. We were lucky he didn't start seizing before we got meds on board to help him detox safely. I was very thankful I caught him trying to get down the stairs before he went ass over tea kettle and cracked his head open.

A few months later, he was back on the surgery schedule to fix an injury on his operative leg from falling. Luckily, his doc knew to plan for detox this time around. But the patient also planned ahead... after he was discharged, we found a bottle of booze in the bedside table. -_-



Vet here so in my case it is is the owner telling the lie that can kill the patient. It is hard to get the point across to people that I am not going to call the cops if you tell me your dog ate your drug stash. Just telling me will save time, lots of money spent on diagnostics, and possibly your pet's life. I really don't care if you do drugs.

The only scenarios I can think of where I would call the authorities would have to involve deliberately harming an animal or extreme neglect that I know will continue in the future.



Had a grandma who was basically comatose status in ER, whenever we could rouse her or get a word she stated she wasn't on any drugs, we YOLO gave her Narcan (narcotic od drug) with no effect, 20-30 minutes later we do flumazenil / romazicon (benzo od drug) and she wakes up. A lot of ppl weren't suspecting her of drug OD given her age & statement so they were thinking 900 different routes.



We had a patient that took her home heart meds religiously even in the hospital when we were also administering then to her. She was Educated to not take any of her home meds while she is hospitalized since were giving her the hospital meds. She would sneak and take them. Her blood pressure bottom out and would have to bolus her. Security was called and had to remove the meds from her and lock them up. We had another patient requested a sleep med. The nurse gave it to her. Later, found patient barely arousable and blood pressure dropped which did not make sense she was given a low dose of sleep aid.

Patient had her purse open on the bed and found a prescription of Ambien. The patient took our sleep aid plus double dose of her home med Ambien. We always instruct patients on admission not to take their home meds while in the hospital. We are not allowed to go through their belongings due to privacy.



One of my relatives had a bad reaction to amoxicillin as a child; Puffy face, trouble breathing, emergency room visit bad.

Fast forward fifteen years, she's off at college and has come down with some sort of infection.

She, however, didn't inform the campus health people, because, and I quote, "Allergies are caused by a bad diet, and since I'm a vegetarian I shouldn't have them any more."

Yeah. They prescribed her amoxicillin, and, if it weren't for her roommate being home to call an ambulance she'd have been dead.



Middle-aged housewife comes to ED with episodes of headache and collapse/vacant episodes. Usually early hours of the morning. Has the full work-up with CT scans and lumbar punctures several times - always negative. It took several attendances before anyone asked her about recreational drugs (she was an unassuming suburban mum). Turns out she was into cocaine in a big way leading to reversible cerebral vasoconstriction. No more cocaine = no more headaches (and no lasting consequences luckily)



Paramedic here, one common one is when older guys are having chest pain and we want to give them nitroglycerin paste/pills to help the chest pain.

One thing that doesn't mix well is nitro and causes a blood pressure drop that can be really dangerous.

We always ask and make it really clear that if we give the nitro and they are taking Viagra and similar meds that they could die. It usually takes 3 or 4 warnings in a row before the guy will admit it.

Early on I made the mistake of trusting a guy after just a couple mentions of how dangerous it would be.

I sprayed the nitro under his tongue and he said "does generic Viagra count?"


At one point his BP wasn't even registering on the box cuff, it was bad. I thought I was going to get screamed at by my doctor, but he just laughed and said it was so common that he wasn't upset, and gave me a couple ideas on how to make it clear how dangerous it was to the patient.



Not a doctor BUT I was in the ER once separated from another patient by only a thin curtain. It was impossible to not overhear what was going on. She was an elderly woman who had taken an ambulance in due to feeling faint and said she had no other symptoms.

Hours are going by, she gets up to use the washroom a couple times and makes small talk with her brother, sounding pretty woozy the whole time. Doctors keep checking on her, they draw blood and check her blood pressure. I think it was like remarkably low but they aren't sure why.

Cut to several hours later when a nurse notices there's some blood on the woman's bed. After some back-and-forth she finally admits that she had been bleeding profusely from her rectum for WEEKS.

The doctors gave her a hard time but got her out of there REAL fast.



I work in outpatient surgical center, lying to anesthesia can be really dangerous. I've had a person lie about not taking drugs and then react badly when given the anesthesia meds because they interacted (fortunately for that patient not nearly dying but I will forever have it ingrained in my head the anaesthetist leaning over their head screaming "what drugs did you take?!". Anotehr that I fortunately havent seen serious event but definitely has happened to our providers and I've seen more mild versions, people eating/drinking before the anesthesia and then denying. Lucky for my patients they just have puked after waking up so we know they had it but made it ok. The danger is you can puke during sedation and then get it in your lungs (called aspirating) and die from that. Could be really bad but fortunately I personally havent seen the worst yet, but I've heard plenty of stories of it



Not a doctor but my sisters godfather was diabetic. He went to the ER because he had a really bad cold for like 2 weeks. He went in and they asked him if he was a diabetic and for some reason he said no. Long story short they gave him something that made his sugar levels go up and he went into a coma. He died about a month later because his organs shutdown.

Edit: he was only 32 years old just in case anyone was wondering.



I wasn't the lead on this case, but I was the assist. When I was in dental school this patient came in and was really hyped up. My buddy asked him if he has been on any drugs and the guy just said he had a lot of caffeine. OK-we move forward. From what my friend told me his blood pressure was high, but not too high for an elective procedure.

Part of the local numbing we give patients has epinephrine in it and sometimes this gets into the bloodstream with certain types of nerve blocks, not uncommon. However, if you've snorted a couple lines of cocaine and then get epi in your bloodstream that's no bueno.

Ended up calling the ambulance, his BP was so high he was at risk for a stroke. So yeah, even stuff the dentist does can kill you if you lie.



I work in an STD clinic, so the stuff I deal with isn't usually deadly or at least not immediately deadly. However, I am constantly surprised by the percentage of patients who test positive and refuse to tell their partners.

A guy came in a few years ago who for something relatively simple like gonorrhea, but seemed to have trouble walking. Long story short a nurse called an ambulance for him and sent him to the ER for a spinal tap. Turns out an ex boyfriend refused to tell him about his syphilis diagnosis after they had a rough break up like 15-20 years earlier. So not only was our guy possibly spreading syphilis unknowingly, he now had untreatable neurosyphilis.

He worked with our Disease Intervention Specialists to track down as many partners as they could but I think he died from related complications like a year after his initial visit.



I was admitting patients in the psychiatric ward. Busy night, and I was way behind. An older man with schizo-affective disorder is admitted with a caretaker. A nurse asks them a few questions, including if the patient has taken any medicine and/or narcotics. The caretaker says no. I see the patient 4 hours later. He seems delirious, which often is caused by a somatic problem (including medicine - you know where this is going). He can't maintain eye contact and can only sit in his chair and talk nonsense. He drools and yells every word, but somehow seems very tired. I ask the caretaker if the patient has taken any medication, and she says the patient broke into a medicine room at the the institution he lives and just started eating random pills.

Apparently this is somewhere around 80 pills not being more precise because she did not bother gathering the empty pillboxes. The only information I could get was, that he definitely ate over 40 lithium pills (which is just great if you really hate your kidneys). Now, after calling the emergency department to quickly prep and an ambulance with an anaesthesiologist for transport, I talked with the caretaker (through my teeth - just slightly - angry). Apparently the nurse "wouldn't understand" because it wasn't his own medicine and she didn't want to "make a fuss". I screamed into my pillow that night in pure frustration. I later found out he lived after intensive care and almost loosing his kidney function.



I'm not a doctor but a patient with a couple of really weird disorders that cause doctors who arent familiar with them to think I am taking. I have been denied very needed basic treatment like a bag of saline because my dehydration is exasperating my symptoms because they think I'm somehow gaming the system. These assumptions that patients are lying do a lot of harm, too.



When we do our pre op check before a surgery, our office prints out a list of meds we have in file that the patient is taking. We tell them please look at this list and sign it to indicate this is the current and up to date list of the meds you take. Patient signed and we plan for surgery next week.

Get a call from anesthesia the day before her scheduled surgery. Apparently she "forgot" to mention she had started taking a weight loss drug that if you're taking it, can cause severe hypotension when you go under anesthesia and in extreme cases you can die from that. You have to have stopped the drug for at least 4 days to be safe to have anesthesia. So her surgery got pushed back a week. Not canceled just pushed back enough to be safe. She call our office fuming and demanding a refund for the time she took off work.

Seriously lady? Sorry but we have a signed document saying you told us all your meds. Exactly who should be mad at who? You put us at liability and now the surgeon/our office doesn't get paid for that day when we could have subbed in someone else in that slot.