A Day in the Life Scenarios


Lying has become pervasive in today’s society. It’s second-nature to many people who use it to get their way or get what they want. More often than not, a person can achieve success if they just “bend the truth” or tell “a little white lie.” If it’s a lie, it’s a lie; an untruth used to influence a situation. It makes no difference if it’s white, little, or bold faced; its just not true.

Many of us think we know when we’re being lied to, but have trouble seeing past the deception. We realize if it’s too good to be true, it probably isn’t, but we are a trusting people who like to see good in everyone. We overlook the possibility that maybe this person is trying somehow take advantage of us.

Doctors, however, are big skeptics. They develop an attitude of not believing something, or someone, unless they see, hear, or feel it themself. Does this patient really have a kidney stone or is he seeking drugs? Did this woman really take an overdose of Valium to commit suicide or just get attention? Did this two year old really fall off the changing table and fracture his skull or was he battered by a parent? It’s important to know these answers because the question portends favorably or unfavorably for the patients’s future. The doctor must be vigilant and insightful so as to not be deceived. A good outcome depends on it.

Patients more than occasionally lie to their doctors, primarily to avoid embarrassment. Would you tell your family doctor you want an HIV test because you had unprotected sex with a stranger on your recent business trip to Las Vegas? Of course, not! You would go to an STD clinic or the ER to see a doctor who doesn’t know you. You can be tested and treated, if necessary, without people familiar with you knowing about it.

In a recent survey to answer the question if patients lie to their doctor, the results were disturbing. The most frequent question about which people lied was regarding smoking. Do you smoke? If so, how much? Almost half of the patients questioned said they lied about how much they smoke.

46% of patients queried admitted to lying when answering the smoking question

43% lied about their exercise habits

37% lied about alcohol consumption (50% of men and 32% of women lied)

29% lied about the number of sexual partners they had (33% of women, 21% of men)

23% admitted they had lied to a doctor—nearly one quarter of patients had lied to their doctor

Those are big percentages!

Patients lie to avoid embarrassment, discrimination, feelings of guilt, and to prevent being lectured or rebuked, or they don’t think the doctor will believe them if they do tell the truth. Many times people who reek of the smell of cigarette smoke will deny they smoke and blame the odor on second hand smoke. Maybe so but second-hand smoke doesn’t turn your fingers yellow.

If you tell the truth the first time, you never have to worry about repeating your fabricated story correctly. The actual facts of a situation are easier to remember than a fabrication so sharing truthful information is always easier than remembering a made up story.

It is a sad commentary on life, but telling the truth has fallen by the wayside. People don’t seem to have a conscience any more. Husbands and wives lie to each other, parents lie to their children and vice versa, teachers lie to students, coaches to players, politicians to the public, and celebrities to their fans, all to promote an opinion or fulfill an agenda. The truth isn’t important; it’s gaining the upper hand and making your point. It’s having a profound effect in our society where no one seems to consider how the other guy feels or thinks. If you don’t think my way, you’re not worthy of my attention. It all seems to have its basis in being unable to speak the truth. Lying to the doctor is just one of those situations. As a result of this behavior, the doctor is deprived of information vital to the improvement of your health. Your overall well-being can be affected. Doctor-patient confidentiality is a sacred creed, and doctors are not supposed to be judgmental. Reassuring patients of these principles will hopefully convince them they don’t need to lie.

Reference: Shryock T, Lutton L. Do patients lie to their doctors? Medical Economics Online 2020 Feb 24.

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