"Osamu Tezuka was educated as a doctor, so the stories are rich in medical knowledge and experience. Except, of course, when Tezuka decides that it would be more fun to just make crazy shit up. Which is pretty much constantly."Injuries or illnesses requiring medical attention are a ubiquitous feature of fiction. With very few exceptions, even those who write medical dramas are not doctors themselves. Many have real doctors as consultants, but even with that there are still things that would never happen in real life that make it into a show to preserve Rule of Drama. These inaccuracies can be especially dangerous if presented as accurate through medical series, leading to well-meaning bystanders causing more harm than anything else. When in doubt, call the professionals. May be related to Artistic License – Biology. See also Artistic License – Pharmacology.
- AB Negative
- Clean, Pretty Childbirth: Anyone who's actually seen a birth knows they can be quite messy.
- CPR: Clean, Pretty, Reliable: CPR can be dangerous for both the rescuer and the patient, with oral diseases being spread, the risks of ribs being broken, or the victim vomiting. And it's not usually successful.
- Easy Sex Change
- Heal It with Booze
- Instant Drama, Just Add Tracheotomy: Don't do this, unless you have actual medical training.
- Instant Emergency Response: Traffic exists, especially if you live in a distant rural community or a busy urban one.
- Instant Sedation: If you know exactly which drug to use, exactly what dose to use, and can put it directly into a vein, you can put a person (safely) out in seconds. Otherwise, you'll either kill your target or have to wait several minutes for them to fall over.
- Kiss of Life: Most of the time, if someone has stopped breathing, their heart has stopped. So it won't work. note Furthermore, owing to the risk of transmitting common illnesses, most artificial ventilation is carried out by mechanical ventilators in a hospital setting, and you certainly won't see mouth-to-mouth ventilation carried out by doctors for this same reason.
- Lethal Diagnosis
- Magical Antibiotics: Antibiotics only work on bacteria, not any other type of pathogen. Also, overusing them can result in the bacteria evolving resistance.
- Magical Defibrillator: A Defibrillator just stops a irregular heart rhythm, it doesn't fix it. CPR is required to get the heart back to normal
- Magic Antidote: Even with an antidote, it takes time to recover from damage.
- Magic Plastic Surgery: There's healing, scarring, and bruising the same as any other surgery.
- Meatgrinder Surgery
- Non-Standard Prescription: A prescription for something that isn't medicine.
- One Dose Fits All: Body mass and other factors affect how much a poison (sedative, medicine etc) can affect a person, and how long it takes to be used.
- Open Heart Dentistry: This only happens in emergencies, when there is no other doctor nearby.
- Playing with Syringes
- Pull the I.V.: This is a good way to get infected.
- Roadside Surgery
- Shot to the Heart: No modern doctor would do such a thing. Instead, they would inject epinephrine into the vein.
- Suck Out the Poison: Bad idea. It can cause infection, it can make the area swell, and the venom is usually circulating through the body.
- Surgeons Can Do Autopsies If They Want
- Tap on the Head: A weak hit would only knock someone out for seconds. A stronger hit would possibly cause health problems like amnesia or brain damage.
- Televisually Transmitted Disease: Rare diseases or disorders that somehow always appear in fiction.
- Urgent Medical Alert: Most of the time, alerts are ignored, except for certain ones.
- We Have to Get the Bullet Out: Bullets are largely harmless when inside someone. Removing them can result in severe bleeding.
- Worst Aid: Performing inept medical treatment — especially some of the stuff shown in media — is usually more harmful than doing nothing at all.
- Wound Licking: Saliva might contain some anti-bacterials and tissue factors, but it's not sanitary.
The following examples do not fit on any subtropes:
open/close all folders
- A banner ad that says "Low white blood cell counts can put you at risk for neutropenia." Neutropenia means you have a low count of a specific type of blood cell, so, yeah, that's exactly correct and completely useless.
Anime and Manga
- Turns up in the backstory of Tyranno Kenzan in Yugioh GX. While on an archaeological expedition when he was younger, Tyranno fell and broke his leg. Rather than do something completely unreasonable like getting him to a hospital, they performed an on-site surgery to replace his broken bone with that of a dinosaur that they had dug up. Not even getting into how they just happened to find a dinosaur bone the exact size and shape of the shin-bone of a maybe ten year old boy.
- In DC's latest reboot, Superman performs surgery on Lois Lane to save her from a gunshot wound. And he does every step past the obvious one of using his X-Ray vision as wrong as he can. He starts by putting gloves on—and then immediately cutting a hole in them for the only part he actually touches her◊. Then instead of removing the bullet, he uses his heat vision to vaporize it and then uses that same supervision to cauterize the wound shut◊. The writer is apparently unaware that heating lead to the point of vaporizing it would have cooked Lois from the inside out, and that cauterizing a wound is not the same thing as welding metal together—it isn't a quick healing that doesn't leave a scar so much as it is a fast way to seal bleeding wounds, and cauterizing two pieces of skin like that would ensure they don't heal together at all.
- In Not as Planned, someone dies from "catching a bad cold from being out in the rain". The common cold comes from a virus, not from cold weather. The setting is so primitive, the characters would know nothing about viruses. It is also possible that the cold weather weakened the immune system so the viral cold became deadly. Extreme cold temperatures can cause hypothermia, which has different symptoms.
- In Travels of the Trifecta when Paul faints after the Canalave Gym battle, he stays unconscious for at least a few hours, which would be an abnormally long time in real life and would be a sign of something much more severe than exhaustion and influenza/severe cold. Possibly justified by his terminal chronic illness that is revealed later on in the story, although this instance still stands out as unusual when compared to the other times in the story when he is rendered unconscious. In Chapter 10, for example, he wakes up from Mars knocking him out in a much quicker amount of time.
- Amoridere acknowledged this in the tags and notes for one of Kill la Kill AU fanfics, with Ryuuko's fever being about 112 degrees and the fact that she was running said fever for more than 48 hours. As she's stated in the note, she figured Ryuuko would have died from said fever, along with noting that she did research but didn't get clear answers. In-story, it was pointed out that Ryuuko's body was starting to shut down, as a result. However, she probably wouldn't have been able to recover from that so quickly.
- The blood transfusion in Chapter 10 of Dumbledore's Army and the Year of Darkness, done without any attempt at cross-matching bloodtypes, and with two people donating blood, was quite risky, with about a 35% chance Colin would die from bloodtype incompatibility note .
- In I Prooped My Pants, Ryan Stiles is cured of his amnesia with anti-amnesia pills. In addition, the hospital cafeteria is staffed by doctors.
- In Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues, a doctor explains that a character has gone blind because "both optic nerves have separated from their respective corneas". The optic nerve and the cornea are literally as far apart as two parts of the eye can possibly be. The writers likely meant "...from their respective retinas".
- Awake. Oh boy, Awake. Along with making the same mistake as the above-mentioned Seven Pounds (only with medication instead of jellyfish venom), there are a few. For instance, how the anesthesiologist is allowed to just step out of the operating theater to make a phone call, when it's his job to stay there to make sure the patient isn't starting to wake up before the surgery is complete. Or how the donated heart for the surgery shows up AFTER they have already opened up the patient. Although, according to Film Brain at least, this helps makes the movie a so-bad-it's-good experience for both non-experts and medical professionals alike.
- In Before the Devil Knows You're Dead, when Andy is on a hospital bed, the leads to the EKG unit are completely misplaced. They're not a bit off - they look like they were slapped on by someone just trying to make things look medic-... Oh, yeah. When they are moved to another person, they are similarly slapped on incorrectly. This kind of thing normally triggers an alarm if the machine thinks the leads are misplaced or the rhythm detected by the machine is way off. Nothing sensible would come out from simply putting the leads in the wrong places, likely triggering an alarm, though hospital staff don't always react to an alarm with the urgency you'd hope.
- Casino Royale (2006):
- Whenever Le Chiffre uses his inhaler he puffs out - thus exhaling (rather than inhaling) his medicine.
- When Bond is poisoned, he is advised to use the defribilator and combopen. The former is not used as it can increase the dysrhythmia, while the latter would have no effect.
- The spinothalamic tract is stated to transmit pain and vibration. It actually transmits pain and temperature. Also, no doctor would call the pathways within the spinal cord "nerves" (they're axons or nerve fibers), and severing them would do nothing to prevent Westlake from suffering unbearable pain from his burned face.
- The synthetic skin cells are stated to have a membrane potential of 122 megavolts. Human cell membrane potential is measured in millivolts, making this off by a factor of a billion.
- Doctor Strange (2016) doesn't so much fail the medical boards as it smears its snot all over the surgical team, contaminating everyone. It's gross incompetence like being unmasked in the room or washing one's hands too quickly (a bad scrub) followed by masking up (now your hands are contaminated) followed by gloving up, nor should they have painted nails (for infection control purposes). The movie also apparently has no idea what roles doctors actually have, demonstrates absolutely awful skills when it comes to interacting with patients, and does not seem to understand medical administration. And the violations of HIPPA (patient privacy) border on comical.
- Seven Pounds has Will Smith's character die by box jellyfish so he can donate his organs to people he thinks deserve them. Box jellyfish venom would have made his organs unusable, since it damages cell membranes.
- 'In 'Some Came Running'', the doctor says that alcohol adds large amounts of sugar to the blood. Alcohol in fact lowers blood glucose levels by inhibiting gluconeogenesis.
- Terminator Salvation includes a character getting impaled through the chest, which requires a heart transplant to fix. This is a huge medical mistake because there is no trauma that would require this. If the heart is not punctured, he does not require a new heart. If the heart is punctured, he would be instantly dead. It's one or the other, and there is nothing in betweennote . The fact that there is no mention of infection, compatibility, rejection, or just the fact that it's a hard to accomplish procedure even in a non-collapsed society with functioning hospitals, makes it even worse.
- In There's Something About Mary, Ted's chiropractor says that Ted has "tender fascial tissue left of L7". There are only 5 lumbar vertebrae (L1-L5), not 7.
- Vera Drake: The method of abortion which Vera uses was actually invariably lethal-there's no way she'd have used this for twenty years before having a fatality. It's also extremely painful-they would not be getting up after that like nothing happened. Jennifer Worth of Call the Midwife fame harshly criticized the portrayal.
- Penryn and the End of Days:
- Apparently only one human who can't even suture straight developed and performed the operations done on the low demons. Later it's revealed he can reattach wings, despite there being no mention of his education on angel biology/anatomy.
- Laylah heads everything vaguely science-related that the angels do, wandering between such specialties as medicine, biological engineering, and pathology.
- In Fifty Shades of Grey doctors don't seem to know the difference between contusions (bruises) and concussions (severe injury to the brain).
- The writers of Warrior Cats have gone on record about how the Healing Herbs and other remedies used in the series aren't actually accurate. Readers shouldn't try to self-medicate cats using those methods.
Live Action TV
- Real-life surgeons are very reluctant to cut half a person's brain out. TV surgeons, on both House and Grey's Anatomy, are more relaxed about performing hemispherectomies.
- House often features chemotherapeutic drugs as a single "chemo" chemical that you just give a patient to kill any cancer that might be anywhere in the body. In reality, chemo can use alkylating agents, antimetabolites, anthracyclines, plant alkaloids, topoisomerase inhibitors, or any number of other chemicals, and it all depends on the specific type of tumor.
- Interestingly enough, there's often multiple treatments for the same type of tumor, depending on allergic reactions and bodily tolerance. (read: some are more toxic than others, and God help you if you turn out to be allergic.)
- In one episode of House, we see a patient ripping out his cochlear implant — cue spurting blood and frantic attempts to save his life. In real life, the external parts of the device (the microphone and speech processor) are held on magnetically, with the actual implant itself safely under the skin. Deaf people and hearing itinerants remove them all the time. It's the equivalent of someone tearing their eyes out by removing their glasses. note
- The series has repeatedly shown the OR with dark, dramatic lighting. While there are some cases note where this would happen, the truth is that OR rooms are brightly lit in the majority of cases.
- The series has confused CT and MRI machines on more than one occasion, and they show x-rays on film being hung on lightboxes, even though the majority of hospitals have switched to digital x-rays. They've also shown the doctors taking CT scans, drawing blood, and doing the lab work themselves. In reality, these jobs would be done by technologists and technicians, as doctors simply don't have the time or knowledge of how to use the equipment.
- The series usually offers up a real howler at least once per episode, of the kind you don't even need medical education to notice. Toxoplasmosis? A fungus (in reality, a disease caused by parasitic protozoa). ALS? Affects sensory neurons (there's a reason it's also known as "motor neurone disease"). Unnoticed tumors 30 centimeters in diameter (larger than a basketball). Etc.
- In one episode, House claims that epilepsy is curable. It is not (it cannot be cured because its causes are not fully understood), but it is treatable (there are several generations of various drugs that, taken constantly, prevent the epileptic fits from occurring). While an ordinary viewer might not know the difference, any MD student, not to mention doctor should know this.
- Apparently, asexuality doesn't exist in healthy people note , is the same thing as absent libidonote and can be caused by tumors.
- Grey's Anatomy. In the second part of the bomb episodes in season two, all Addison Montgomery can do for Miranda Bailey—who is extremely distraught about her husband being in surgery next to the might-explode-at-any-second bomb—is tell her the baby could die if she doesn't push. Offering support and encouragement and taking charge is apparently something only interns do. And in the season three premiere, with the preemie who was left in a trash can at a high school, and the four girls who could have been the mother? All they had to do was give them a regular pee on a stick pregnancy test. The pregnancy hormone, hCG, stays in the blood for up to six weeks after birth.
- The Legend Of William Tell; Will goes hypothermic after wandering around a mountain for a while. Well, sort of. (He can speak, walk with help, and is more or less fine after one night under a cloak.)
- On Stargate Universe, one character donates a kidney to another. The location of the scar on the donor's belly suggests that they accidentally transplanted his spleen instead, as a donated kidney is best extracted from the lower back, not the front.
- Stargate SG-1 had a minor case with pathology in "The Broca Divide", the episode where SG-1 and -3 accidentally bring back a disease that causes humans to regress to a primitive mental state. Leaving aside whether it's physically possible for a disease to do this, the goof came when Dr. Fraiser referred to the organism causing the disease as a virus that feeds on histamine. This allowed them to cure it with massive doses of allergy meds, starving the disease. Viruses do not feed on anything: they use cells to replicate, plain and simple, so antihistamines would have had absolutely no effect had it actually been a virus. She also refers to it as a "parasitic virus". Viruses are parasitic by definition.
- An episode of Herman's Head played into the myth that sugar is 100% fatal to diabetics. Part of the story involved Herman giving a bear a donut and then finding out later that the bear was diabetic and died a short time later. Note that even if the myth were true, an animal as large as a bear would need a lot more sugar than one donut could contain to affect its glucose level significantly.
- A few examples from Columbo
- In one episode, the hospital requests that the patient's assistant go to his hotel room to retrieve his usual medications. In reality no hospital would do this as it would be a monumental waste of time- they'd either likely have the drugs on hand or would be able to get them from a nearby pharmacy.
- While blowfish poison can be quite fatal, one episode well for the usual trick of the poison killing its victim within 1 minute of ingestion. It's not quite that effective.
- In an in-Verse example, Dean on Supernatural once explained away his having fired a gun in his girlfriend's garage by claiming he'd seen a possum and knew they carried rabies. Due to their low body temperature, opossums are the least likely backyard North American mammals to harbor the rabies virus, something any doctor who knows about rabies or exterminator who knows possums would be aware of.
- Fargo: A gunshot Hanzee steals hydrogen peroxide to disinfect his wounds. It's a common misconception that hydrogen peroxide should be used for wound disinfection, probably because it is used for sterilization, but it actually slows down wound healing.
- Medical dramas or medical scenarios on non-medical shows often have scenes that in Real Life would violate patient confidentiality —loved ones being present when the doctor asks questions or delivers news, etc.
- Police Procedural are especially fond of having cops barging into a doctor's office, exam room, or even an operating room to arrest the physician in question, something that would not only violate the patient's privacy, but contaminate the area.
- Want to make a doctor, a toxicologist, and a pharmacist howl in laughter together? Show them the toxins and disease table in the 20th Anniversary Edition of the Old World of Darkness game line. It contains such madness as:
- Methanol is a relatively benign poison, and less dangerous than tear gas (Real world: untreated methanol poisoning will blind you and/or kill you, and even treated it just might. Methanol poisoning is a medical emergency. Tear gas is in the vast, vast majority of cases highly irritating, but not debilitating, and after some exposures, you can have a tolerance to it.)
- You resolve whether or not you get cancer with a roll that takes place in a single turn (3 sec)
- The difficulty of catching a disease and the difficulty of fighting it off are the same, so a lethal disease is always easy to catch, while highly transmissible, not-too-painful diseases don't exist
- Fouled water is a thing. Don't ask what that is, how it's fouled, or with what it's fouled.
- Ebola is apparently airborne, since it must be avoided with methods similar to avoiding a cloud of poison gas.
- One Dose Fits All is absolutely in effect.
- It is just as easy to catch HIV as it is leprosy.
- No (non-magical) system describes how to cure these diseases, nor what might be possible with mundane medicine that should be available to the majority of characters in the World of Darkness.
- The game explicitly states that there is no way to do anything but treat the effects of a toxin, when several on the list have literal exact antidotes.
- Somehow, in the middle of an opiod epidemic in the United States, in a cartoonishly simple list of toxins, narcotics are nowhere to be seen.
- Somehow, in the middle of an epidemic of deaths from synthetic marijuana in the United States and virtually no cases of death attributed to old-fashioned marijuana, the chart collapses both into just THC.
- In Batman: Arkham City, IV blood lines are shown with white gaps (presumably air) between red pockets of blood. This is very bad: air in a blood vessel can cause a potentially fatal embolism.
- In Surgeon Simulator 2013, some minor liberties have been taken regarding human physiology, such as being able to survive without otherwise vital organs. Like a brain.
- Also alluded to with some achievements: for example, "I'm sure he'll live" requires finishing surgery when the patient has a very small amount of blood left.
- An average human male can lose up to 40% of his blood before his body can no longer keep up with the loss and he's on his way to a better world (unless some immediate medical help is applied), and even at this point his body becomes rather pale (which isn't shown in the actual game). This means that once your patient's blood level goes below 3360ml, "I'm sure he'll live" becomes a rather Blatant Lie. Not that it's saying much, considering Nigel's methods of performing the surgeries...
- Played for Laughs in Thy Dungeonman 2. Percy the rat infects Thy Dungeonman with bubonic plague, and it's not portrayed particularly realistically. Thy Dungeonman doesn't get any symptoms before he suffers Critical Existence Failure 27 turns after infection. But don't worry; you can stave it off by eating moldy bread and cure it by getting it "sawed off".
- Trauma Center operations are completed within a few minutes each; the time limit for most operations is 5 minutes, and 10 minutes for Final Boss-type illnesses. In real life, a patient is highly, highly unlikely to be in and out of the O.R. in recovering condition in just 10 minutes. After all, this is a game, not medical school.
- Hitman (2016): The final target of Season One is a man who suffers from Situs Inversus, a birth defect where some or most of a person's internal organs are mirror-flipped (IE: the heart is on the right), which makes him prone to heart problems. This is true to real life. However, this man needs a heart transplant that requires a special mirrored donor heart to fix the aforementioned heart problems or else he'll die; this isn't true to real life, as a person with Situs Inversus can receive a regular left-handed heart transplant, albeit it requires a far more complex surgery.