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The Fine Art of Fibbing

By Rod Moser, PA, PhD


I just read an interesting article about how to tell if your patients are lying, and it made me think about some of the “little white lies” that I use in my medical practice. For most of my career, I practiced family medicine. My patients ranged from newborns to the geriatric crowd. As a matter of fact, since I also did prenatal care, I was caring for babies before they were even born. Now, 40 years later, those babies are bringing their babies and teenagers to me for care – these are my beloved grand-patients.

I lie to my wife (sometimes). I once splurged and bought an expensive necktie, telling her it was a fraction of the cost. I was caught when she went to but another one for her father for his birthday.

As parents, we lie to our children all of the time. We tell them to be good for Santa. We sneak money under their pillows and tell them it was from the Tooth Fairy. The Easter Bunny left a basket for them and a bunch of eggs in the yard. I told my daughter that broccoli made her hair shiny and that too much candy will give her zits. I even told my kids that they had to make their beds very tight so spiders would not trapped under their sheets and bite their toes at night.

My mother told me that Coca-Cola (her favorite beverage) caused zits so I wouldn’t drink her sodas. My aunt told me that Jesus kept a list of my lies and that I had a good chance of ending up in Hell. We will see.

Now that I am working with kids again, I find myself with a whole new array of stretched truths. I don’t consider it a lie if the truth would hurt more. Can you imagine my day, if I told the whole truth, and nothing but the truth?

“These shots are going to hurt like Hell, so be prepared!”

“I have some good news. You don’t have syphilis, but you do have just about everything else.”

Some of my more clever white lies that I use in pediatrics:

  • Nutritional Lie: You don’t have to eat vegetables if you don’t want, but I may have to give you a “green bean shot” or “carrot shot” once per week. If that does motivate the kids to eat their veggies, I tell them that the vegetable shots go in the eyes! This usually does the trick.
  • Immunization Lie: You have to get some school “shots”, but you are in luck. We ran out of the big needles today, so I will need to use the tiny ones…the ones that we use for the babies. They don’t usually hurt, but if they do, I will tell the nurse to take it out right away.
  • Number of Shots Lie: You appear to need five shots today, but if you don’t tell anyone, I will just have the nurse do three. (they only needed three, of course).  So, how many would you like? Five or three? If they say “None”, I will say that I will just put them down for five and pretend to write it down. Immediately, they will yell out “THREE!”
  • Laceration Repair Lie: I know that you do not want stitches, so I will just use little kitty whiskers to fix your cut. The only problem is that they tend to tickle. If you promise to not laugh too hard or giggle, I will use them.
  • Wound Care Lie: I have to clean your boo-boo so it may sting a bit as those germs die. Close your eyes and I will do it real fast so your cut will go to sleep. (This is when I inject the lidocaine)
  • Maintain a Quiet Exam Room Lie: You are not allowed to scream in this room, because you will wake up the babies in the next room. If you wake up the babies, you will have to help me change their poopy diapers.
  • Thumb-sucking Lie:  Did you know that cats will rub their butts on your thumb when you sleep at night? This is why it tastes funny sometimes.  I think you should stop sucking your thumb, or get rid of your cat.
  • Stinky Feet Lie: When kids are afraid, I often pretend that I am seeing them because of their stinky feet, which I confirm by smelling them and jumping back in disgust. After they are done giggling, I also notice that they are also here because they have an earache or sore throat.
  • Little Birds in the Ear Lie: I tell kids that they can hear little birds when I look in their ears, so they have to be quiet and not frighten the birds. While I am examining them, I do a few subtle “tweets” (I am very good at bird sounds).

I suspect that I have a few hundred more of these….

There comes a point when we all have to fess up to the truth. I have a 22-year old man still seeing me a “pediatric” patient. Why? He is terribly needle-phobic and even cries when he has to get any injection. When he was five-years old, I told him that I would use the baby needles for him if he didn’t tell anyone. He didn’t, so I am still seeing him annually for a flu shot and other vaccines because I secretly use those damned “baby needles”. So far, I didn’t have the heart to tell him that there is no such thing as baby needles. I need to tell him before I retire, that I have been lying to him; using the standard needles that we use for everyone.

He probably needs to know the truth, especially now that he is the high school football coach!

In my blog next week, I will discuss how medical providers tell when YOU (the patient) lie to us!


The opinions expressed in WebMD Second Opinion are solely those of the User, who may or may not have medical or scientific training. These opinions do not represent the opinions of WebMD. Second Opinion are... Expand


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