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Back-Alley Doctor
"Lay down on table. I take lungs now, you get gills next week... Uhh, you might feel small pain."

"I might not have a 'Med School Degree', but when you get shot, you'll be happy I'm here."
Dr. Zed, Borderlands

A surgeon with medical credentials that are... less than ideal. This could be for any number of reasons, from the surgeon having his license revoked, to actually being denied one in the first place, or (if you're lucky) he simply got it in the wrong country. One or more patients in the past may have died on his operating table due to improper procedures, mistakes, or lack of proper sanitation. Chances are they still do. Even so, he still gets a lot of business, simply because he never asks any questions. He does, however, expect you to do the same.

The Back Alley Doctor typically operates in a dimly lit, grungy, back-alley office, complete with nightmarish surgical tools which may or may not have been recently cleaned. Sterilization is optional, often involving cigarette lighters, hot plates, or that bottle of whiskey he's been sipping on all day, including during the surgery. The whiskey is likely to double as a pain-killer and is safer than any pills he may have on hand. For really bad cases see Comically Inept Healing.

He's often the only medical recourse available to criminals, who may make up his entire clientele, due to legitimate doctors having to report gunshot wounds and other wounds inflicted by violence to the police. A Back Alley Doctor funded by organized crime might have as good or better equipment and practices than a legit doctor.

On the other hand, he may feature in Dystopia where he fell afoul of the Obstructive Bureaucrat at best. His poverty may be the only problem in getting the best in medical treatment — well, that and the danger of getting busted. In settings where abortion is illegal, women may turn to this doctor (unless they are incredibly wealthy).

If more skilled, the Back Alley Doctor may provide plastic surgery as a means to hide the character's identity. Can cross with Open Heart Dentistry if one of the reasons he's not a doctor is that he was trained in a completely different medical field.

Such a doctor is a staple figure in Cyber Punk or other Used Future settings. He's the one various shady characters or protagonists on the run visit when they have to install or repair various implants, often stolen or illegal, or remove all manners of junk living in a futuristic dystopia tends to leave in one's body, such as inhibitors, loyalty enforcement implants, tracking devices or even built in Explosive Leash. May also dabble in unlocking Neuro Vaults.

Undoubtedly Truth in Television. May result in Comically Inept Healing.


Examples

    open/close all folders 

    Anime and Manga 
  • Black Jack isn't licensed and he's mercenary as hell, but he's also scarily good at his job, in contrast to most examples of the trope who are generally various levels of incompetent.
    • And while he can operate in a dingy back alley or an unsterile van, he prefers not to.
  • Dr. Tenma of Monster comes across a teenage girl serving as one of these for a poor community of Asian immigrants who would otherwise be unable to afford medical care.
    • Otto Heckle also had plans to manage Dr. Tenma as a back alley doctor (albeit more competent than others listed here). Seeing as the aforementioned neurosurgeon is an idealistic All-Loving Hero, that idea didn't work out too well (Back-alley doctors, after all, aren't supposed to refuse the money or convince their patients to turn themselves in).
  • Ray: The title character herself is one of these, made easier by her X-ray vision. Ironically, she was raised in an organ farm. Her childhood mentor was Black Jack, who made a Lawyer-Friendly Cameo in the manga and appeared outright in the anime (since the animation studio owned the rights).
  • In one manga which involved a wandering freelance doctor a la Black Jack, an insecure teen girl goes to a back alley surgeon for breast augmentation. He actually does it competently, but the implants are so cheap and faulty they start leaking, making her sick. In the end, her insecurities and desperation to look "big" lead her to keep the implants anyway, despite the mercenary surgeon pointing out she'll probably die from complications soon.
  • Injection Girl: A preteen girl this time, who wants to become an idol singer, gets black market breast augmentation procedure from a back alley surgeon. As with the above, the operation goes fine, but the results were undesirable... not because they leak, but because they started swelling out of control a few weeks later and he ends up turning her into his S&M slave at the end.
  • Franken Fran's Fran Madaraki may actually be licensed (it's not entirely clear), but probably not - no sane licensing board would let her possess one. What she does frequently (and we do mean frequently) goes beyond the pale. But she can do things that are medically impossible, so people keep seeking her out.
  • Shinra Kishitani from Durarara!!. He is a competent surgeon, though, and wouldn't have any problem getting a license (aside from his Improbable Age, that is), if he ever cared to. Of course, being raised by his father, Shingen, the show's resident Mad Doctor, left him with more than just a couple of loose screws, so he never bothered. He also seems to make a decent buck on his occupation too, as evident from the posh apartmentnote  where he lives with his future wife- not-girlfriend Celty Sturluson, and them never lacking anything. Apparently, as Ikebukuro is a somewhat upscale district, even Back Alley Doctors charge a pretty penny there. Being the local medic for gangs apparently pays a lot.
  • In Heat Guy J, there is an illegal doctor known as "Sensei," who wears a shirt with a skull-and-crossbones on it. He's a Jerk with a Heart of Gold who's always willing to help Daisuke and adopted a little girl he found and trained her as a nurse. For a Back Alley Doctor with a rather gruff disposition (and an implied drinking problem), he is good at what he does, as competent as an actual licensed doctor.
  • Doctor Hiriluk from One Piece was a heroic example who was hampered by the fact that he knew nothing of actual medicine and developed "cures" that only made the victims worse.
  • Doctor Wilde from Shokojo Sera is a realistic example from Victorian England - a medical practitioner brought low by his alcoholism, whose only selling point is his cheap consultation fee.
  • Barazo Mankanshoku from Kill la Kill proudly touts himself as one, as well as the fact that he's killed more patients than he's saved. He even has a glowing neon sign on his house describing him as such.
    • He takes such pride in this that when Mako moves them up the ranks, he goes by "Front-Alley Doctor." When he becomes the medical officer for the Nudist Beach movement, the Infirmary door has a piece of paper taped to it that reads "Back-Alley"
  • Dr. Meredith from Banana Fish actually has a medical degree; he just isn't licensed any more. He mostly does illegal abortions, but in a pinch will provide basic medical services for Ash Lynx and his Gang Bangers.

    Comic Books 
  • Opus from Bloom County went to a back-alley liposuctionist to get his nose fat reduced.
    • Unfortunately, it was so botched, one of the kids said that he "looked like a mosquito with gas."
  • The Crime Doctor, from Batman comics (and Batman The Animated Series). An honest surgeon forced by his brother Rupert Thorne to work for him. In the comics, he also happened to be Bruce Wayne's physician, which allowed him to discover his identity as Batman.
  • Kling Klang Klatch: This Cyber Punk murder mystery hinges on black-market organs harvested from the bodies of a back-alley doctor's deceased patients... who happen to be distressed young toy pandas in a city of living teddy bears...
  • The Punisher
    • An early Punisher story had Frank get in contact with a plastic surgeon after his face was carved up. The plastic surgeon, naturally a hottie, had a problem with painkillers and taking too many. Nevertheless, to help Frank hide, she made him black.
    • The "Welcome Back, Frank" arc has Frank get one of these not only to treat his own wounds, but also to help an innocent friend who got caught up in his work.
  • Technically, Pieter Cross, aka Dr Mid-Nite, qualifies. His license was revoked, and he runs a free clinic. Like Dr "Mossy" Lawn below, however, he's actually a brilliant physician.
  • The teen-age Midge in Naughty Bits can't tell her parents she's gotten pregnant, so she has to go to a back-alley abortionist. The man turns out to be a former EMT who was fired for showing up in the job drunk; he gives Midge whiskey for painkiller (it doesn't work very well) and threatens her afterwards when she asks about going to a real doctor. The author then goes to elaborate on how it could easily have been even worse.
  • The Marvel Universe has the Night Nurse, who is technically a licensed physician (not a nurse, despite the name) However, she operates under this trope to provide confidential care to the city's costumed vigilantes, and maintains her own secret identity in regards to her name and her qualifications.

    Film 
  • In the 1989 Batman movie, the man who will become the Joker visits one of these in an attempt to get his face restructured after a particularly nasty encounter with Batman. The surgeon lacked decent tools and his skills were left in question. Ultimately the gangster's face was transformed into a horrid Slasher Smile. Upon seeing his deformed and horrible discolored face, the newly-born Joker bursts into hysterical laughter.
  • In Minority Report, Tom Cruise's character John Anderton gets his eyes changed by a back alley doctor in a disgusting apartment. For added horror, the doctor is a former plastic surgeon who was arrested by Anderton some years ago for setting his own patients on fire — just so he could demonstrate his skills.
    • Luckily for John, the doctor is grateful for being sent to jail, as it gave him the time he needed to continue studying medicine in the prison library. Unluckily, the doctor can't resist playing a number of disgusting pranks on his temporarily-blinded patient.
      • One of the two sandwiches in the fridge was edible. It's not the surgeon's fault that his patient was blind and apparently also incapable of smell. Ditto with the milk.
  • In Reservoir Dogs, the characters acknowledge that due to their status as wanted criminals, they can not drop off the gunshot Mr. Orange to a hospital, and discuss the possibility of sending him to one of these.
    • A bit of dramatic irony subverts this: Mr. Orange is an undercover cop; if they had been willing to ditch him, he would have been fine.
  • In Dirty Dancing, "a real M.D." is called in to do Penny's abortion, only it turns out that "he had a dirty knife and a folding table."
  • Gangs of New York had an interesting case. When the protagonist is ordered to lead a robbery of a ship in port they find all the guards on the ship dead and the cargo already stolen. Rather than go back empty handed the main character hauls the bodies to a back alley doctor who buys them off him. It fits into the trope since considering the time, the doctor was likely a surgeon who wanted to better study a human body (something illegal due to religious mandate)
  • Payback opens with Porter getting bullets dug out of his back by an alcoholic Back Alley Doctor (scalpels sterilised in whiskey and all).
  • Heat: After Chris Shiherlis is shot in the shoulder by Det. Casals during the bank robbery shootout, Neil takes him to one of these types of doctors. In a deleted scene, the doctor demands twice the normal fee.
  • The Stepfather III has the killer going to a back alley plastic surgeon, who he has alter his appearance (Terry O'Quinn, who played the stepfather in the first two movies, was replaced by a new guy, necessitating an explanation for his different appearance). The scene is particularly Squicky, due to the director using footage of actual plastic surgery for it.
  • The Wrong Box: This 1966 Victorian farce features Peter Sellers as a disreputable doctor fallen on hard times (after that unfortunate incident with the Lord Mayor's wife), living in a drunken haze in a grubby little office full of cats. He sells a blank death certificate to Peter Cook as part of a scheme to collect an inheritance, insisting on washing his hands for even this humble task, and then absently drying them off on a cat.
  • David Duchovny's character in Playing God.
  • Crank: Dwight Yoakum's character. In the second movie he mentions losing his license in association with his ex-wife's botched vaginal rejuvenation surgery.
  • Apparently the Star Wars Expanded Universe reveals the deformed "wanted in 12 star systems" guy from A New Hope was one of these.
  • Mike Leigh's film Vera Drake is about a sympathetic back alley abortionist in London in the years when abortion was illegal.
  • City Heat. Clint Eastwood finds a criminal he shot in the ass being operated on by a drunken doctor of this type. Clint threatens to ignite the alcohol being used as an antiseptic if the crook doesn't talk.
  • Inglorious Basterds. After the shootout in the tavern, the bullet in von Hammersmark's leg is removed by a vet working for the French Resistance.
  • Just Go With It: One of Danny's patients comes to him to get corrected after seeing one of these for plastic surgery.
  • Played with in Dirty Pretty Things, a film about black-marketeering of human organs in the London underworld. The surgeon who removes the organs operates out of a room in a hotel where the night staff have been paid to look the other way, and (although we never see him work) seems to be a textbook case of this trope. When the surgically trained protagonist Okwe is coerced into doing a job for them, he's appalled at the conditions and insists on MacGyvering a more acceptable operating theatre out of the limited resources they have available.
  • Vera Drake: Vera is another heroic amateur backstreet abortionist.

    Jokes 

    Literature 
  • The novel The Cider House Rules has Homer Wells study under a doctor to learn how to perform illegal abortions. Although Wells is not licensed, he is not seedy, and takes great pains to give professional care.
  • Discworld
    • Dr. "Mossy" Lawn of Ankh-Morpork is is a subversion; He has the normal office location, tools, and clientele as a normal Back Alley Doctor because he studied the medical practices of Klatch (a fantasy culture equivalent of golden age Arabia and Arch-Nemesis of Ankh-Mopork), but because their methods actually work his patients have a much higher survival rate than those of the city's more respectable doctors. When he manages to save the life of the wife and child of the richest man in Ankh-Morpork, His Grace, The Duke of Ankh, Commander Sir Samuel Vimes, Vimes gives him one hundred thousand A-M dollars (equivalent to perhaps $50 million USD), and he uses the money to build a hospital for the poor. Vimes picked him especially because he knew from being a cop (and from personal experience) that he was better than so called "respectable" doctors.
    • Dr James Folsom (aka 'Doughnut Jimmy'), also of Ankh-Morpork... Actually a racehorse vet, but performing medicine on humans as well. He is trusted more by various humans because letting a horse die gets much worse punishment (at the hands of organised criminals) then letting a human die.
    • And yet later, Igors of Discworld (there are many) become trusted doctors, working out of anywhere. They tend to have rather obvious stitches and different views on the ethics of organ donation than others, but are just so good at the job that this doesn't matter.
  • In The Bourne Identity, Bourne encounters one like this in Marseilles who was formerly a respected British surgeon, but became one of these after his alcoholism led to him killing a patient.
  • Matthew Bartholomew novels: Inverted by Robin of Granchester — actually Cambridge's only licensed barber-surgeon, but so filthy and incompetent (even by medieval standards) that people avoid him wherever possible.
  • Invoked in Dan Abnett's Warhammer 40,000 novel Ravenor Returns. They need a medicae and Zael finds them Belknap. Patience objects when she learns he lost his license for malpractice, but at Zael's insistance, Belknap reveals that it was fraud, to try to get supplies to treat such patients as children without registered parents. (The secret part he carries out very well, though.)
  • In The Stainless Steel Rat books, Jim once uses such a doctor for plastic surgery.
  • Deconstructed in Skulduggery Pleasant, when hit-man Sanguine gets slashed across the stomach, and has to get healed by "some back alley moron" who screws something up which results in Sanguine surviving but losing his magic.
  • Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?: The American government makes it illegal to get medical care without first being sterilized (no children). Many doctors (and fake doctors) moonlight to give people care in protest to the law.
  • Larry Niven's setting of Known Space has these as a major plot component. In the sci-fi future, humans can live practically forever as long as there's a steady supply of compatible organ transplants. The legitimate clinics never have enough donors to meet demand, so "Organleggers" set up back-alley surgical suites, where they can fix you up with the organs of some civilian they snatch off the street. Fortunately, this problem abruptly ceases when Ancient Astronauts come and instigate a large conspiracy for the protection of Mankind which, among other things, improves medical technology to the point that organ transplants are obsolete. After Protector, back alley doctors are pretty much obsolete, along with most other societal ills.
  • Stephenie Meyer's The Host. Doc, like every other person who's still human, lives in a cave and drinks too much. But he's the only doctor who isn't a body-snatching alien.
  • In Dan Abnett's Gaunt's Ghosts novel Blood Pact, Kolding gets forced into this role. Gaunt and Maggs have to find an out-of-the-way doctor, and he's there. They are less than pleased when they learn his work, for many years, has been only autopsies, but he's their only chance.
  • The Abortion: A Historical Romance: An unnamed narrator tells the tale of taking his girlfriend Vida to a veterinarian's office in Tijuana, Mexico for an abortion in this Richard Brautigan novel. To sterilize his surgical tools, the doctor douses them in tequila (but, surprisingly, does not partake of said tequila himself) and then heat-sterilizes them with an acetylene torch.
    • The Abortion was written pre Roe v. Wade, so this might be something of an aversion.
      • It is. Dr. Garcia actually has high ethical and professional standards. When he says "no pain, all clean" you can believe it.
  • In The Dresden Files, coroner Waldo Butters plays this role for Harry, especially when the hospital isn't a safe option.
  • Brawne Lamia and Johnny actually the cybrid of John Keats in Hyperion (section "The Detective's Tale") visit one in one of the more Wreched Hives on Lamia's native Lusus, as part of their adventures in trying to figure out who killed Johnny.
  • In The Serpent's Shadow, Dr. Maya Witherspoon is a heroic example of the rich criminal version. Though she's actually licensed to practice, and is probably the best doctor in London's charity clinics, she also provides medical care to actresses and rich men's mistresses in "absolute discretion," and among other things, provides "obscene" information on contraceptives to women of all classes.
  • In Pocket in the Sea, Jensen has shades of this trope. While he is licensed, careful and sanitary, he also takes a great deal of joy in performing unnecessary procedures and occasionally plays god by letting patients that have done bad things die on his watch. Though the narrator of the story is a friend of his and consistently casts him as The Good Doctor, the premise of the book is that the Navy is short on good personnel and they are staffing boats with sailors that would have otherwise been deemed unfit for duty. It's not clear if Jensen is indeed a good doctor or merely a more legitimate Back Alley Doctor.
  • Dr. Nehle in Suspicion by Friedrich Dürrenmatt was a very good doctor, but his problems with Greek and Latin made it impossible for him to get a license. He met an Evil Doppelganger who got that license for him. Things go downhill from there.
  • In The Ballad Of Lee Cotton, an alcoholic Bunny-Ears Lawyer of a surgeon is the only doctor for miles when Lee is involved in a traffic accident that, among other injuries, crushes his genitals. Unable to save his manhood, the doctor decides that rather than force him to live the rest of his life as a eunuch, he's going to give the unconscious Lee full sex-reassignment surgery right there and then. The fact that he's something of a Mad Scientist who's wanted an excuse to do that for years has nothing to do with it, of course. It's worth noting that this isn't the beginning of the story — this happens halfway through, and continues the novel's theme of identity and categorisation.
  • Frostflower and Thorn begins with unwantedly pregnant warrior Thorn preoccupied with how to pay a "borter" for her little problem before it gets big. The risks involved with poor hygiene and dubious skill, in addition to her lack of funds, convince her to agree to an alternative proposed by a sorceress.

    Live Action TV 
  • CSI: Crime Scene Investigation: An episode featured a sex change doctor who treats male-to-female transsexuals who don't want to wait for the year-long therapy process conversion usually takes. She performs her surgeries in a storage unit.
    • Another episode had a gangster who successfully faked his death return to Las Vegas for a Roaring Rampage of Revenge after being told that he was beyond medical help. Unfortunately for him, the Back-Alley Doctor telling him this meant that the gangster's condition was complicated enough to require a real doctor's help, which the gangster could not get without being caught. The authorities were "kind" enough to have him treated in custody.
  • In Nip/Tuck, Dr. Merrill Bobolit loses his medical license after botching a cosmetic surgery on a dog, and winds up performing cheap liposuctions in the back of a Korean nail salon.
  • On American Dreams, one of Helen's classmates gets an abortion from a guy who works out of a hotel room. Nothing happens to her beyond missing some classes and feeling sick for a few days.
  • A twisted Public Service Announcement from a few years back showed a teen going to a back-ally piercer to get his tongue pierced; the piercer came complete with bad teeth, rusty tools, disgusting lair, etc. After the procedure, the piercer asked the teen, "Won't you join me in a cigarette?" Teen: "You think I'm crazy?" Um... yes.
  • Kaoru Kino in Kamen Rider Agito. He's a genius surgeon who happened to get into an accident that cost him his arm and his brother his life some time before his first appearance. The doctors grafted his brother's arm onto him, but his license was revoked, since amputees aren't allowed to practice surgery. Given that he's still the best surgeon in Japan, hospitals still call him in to perform difficult surgeries. To make it clear to everyone that he's not licensed, he performs surgery while wearing black scrubs. No, really.
  • Firefly: Simon Tam is a little like this as he is surviving by servicing smugglers. In his case he is of course a first class surgeon and simply happens to be there because of difficulties with The Government.
  • The Cold Case episode Volunteers. A friend of the female vic is infertile as a result of a back alley abortionist (Abortion was illegal in the 60's), so she and the male vic decide to volunteer in an underground service that helps women get safe abortions by a caring, legal doctor in a clean atmosphere.
  • Star Trek: Deep Space Nine reveals that back alley doctors still exist in Star Trek society. At least some of them are engaged in Bio-Augmentation (which is banned in Federation), often with very bad results.
  • In one episode of NYPD Blue, the murder victim was a Back Alley Doctor. He was killed by a disgruntled patient over a badly botched sexual reassignment surgery.
  • 30 Rock: "Dr." Spaceman is a bad enough doctor that he is legally required to put quotation marks around his "doctor" title.
  • Babylon 5 features a couple operating in Downbelow from time to time. Even Dr. Franklin, the station's chief medical officer, secretly runs a small clinic down there. In the first season episode "Quality of Mercy", Doctor Franklin investigates one such doctor, only to learn two things: One, this back-alley doctor's daughter is smoking hot, and two: That she is using a bit of black market Imported Alien Phlebotinum that heals her patients by giving of her own life energy. When an escaped mass-murderer holds her daughter hostage and forces her to use the machine to heal his own wounds, she proceeds to Reverse the Polarity, and transfers a severe chronic disease she has been suffering with into his body, killing him painfully. After being responsible for that, she feels she can never work as a healer again.
  • At least two appear in 1000 Ways to Die. Being the kind of show that it is... well...
  • Person of Interest. After Reece is shot by a CIA sniper, Finch takes him to hospital and empties a large bag of money in front of an orderly, who he identifies as a foreign-qualified doctor who doesn't have the money to be qualified in the United States. He does now.
  • Once Upon a Time has Archie Hopper, a back-alley psychologist rather than the traditional surgeon. He has legitimate psychological knowledge and is fully capable of administering therapy, he simply never studied for a degree. The Dark Curse provided him with the knowledge as part of his false identity.
  • Arrested Development has Dr. Norman.
  • Chicago Hope has two of the young doctors discovering a teenager is running a medical practice out of his own home in a slum for poor people for whom going to a regular licensed hospital is out of the question. They are naturally concerned, but seeing that the kid is doing a reasonably good job with a surprising amount of skill and his patients have nowhere else to turn to, they decide to give him some pointers on medicine and some proper equipment to help him.
  • On Highlander, after Joe (and many of the other Watchers) gets shot at the end of "Judgment Day", Duncan takes him to Methos. Methos does have a medical degree, but he got it over 500 years ago in 1453.

    Music 
  • The Dresden Dolls' "Mandy Goes to Med School" is sung from the perspective of one of these, mostly with respect to illegal abortion, but touching on every part of the trope from treating criminals to sexual abuse of patients. It's more than a little disturbing, somewhat disgusting, and sometimes alarmingly funny.
  • "Weird Al" Yankovic's parody of Like a Virgin - Like a Surgeon - has one of these. Agreed, he graduated from the med school, but he was last of (his) class / barely passed.
    "It's a fact - I'm a quack
    The disgrace of the A.M.A.
    'Cause my patients die,
    Yah my patients die, Before they can pay."
  • Mentioned in The Eagles' "Life in the Fast Lane": "Call the doctor, I think I'm gonna crash / Doctor said he's coming, but you gotta pay in cash."
  • Dr. Dick appears to have a doctorate, but otherwise embodies this trope. He turns his male patients into freaks and his female patients into hot babes, except for the woman who was already hot.
  • The (real) wandering doctor Eisenbart is depicted as this in an old German song. Given his time, he wasn't too bad actually - otherwise he wouldn't have been able to return to a city he visited, as was the case with many wandering quacks (who had to avoid former victims/patients). But in said song, he praises himself as being able to make the blind walk and the lame see, and occasionally borders on Mad Doctor, when he "cures" a patient with ten pounds of opium or shoots out a bad tooth with a pistol.
    • This was probably the origin of the English version song "Doctor Ironheart". After applying a "treatment" which kills the patient in every preceding verse, the final verse goes (minus the equivalent of la-la-la between each line):
      "Good friends you thus will clearly see
      How quick and cheap each remedy
      For if you come whate'er your pain
      You'll never need return again"
      (the joke of course is you won't be able to return because you'll be dead)

    Newspaper Comics 
  • In Bloom County, after liposuction is made illegal, Opus visits a back-alley liposuctionist. The liposuctionist is a large, terrifying man with tattoos who claims he is putting himself through medical school with his illegal earnings. His operating room is dimly lit, rat infested, and filthy. Predictably, he botches Opus' nose liposuction, and Opus' nose is thin and shriveled afterwards.

    Pinball 
  • In America's Most Haunted, Herbert Holston, the manager of the Landmark Hotel, is described as an "amateur physician."

    Tabletop Games 
  • Shadowrun
    • This RPG has street docs which appear to mostly be a subversion. Not only are they good enough to heal you but you can find ones that are good enough to modify you including adding on to your brain to boost intellect. However, the number one thing needed from these guys is loyalty so they don't decide to kill you/steal your organs and cyberware/turn you in for the sizable bounty/all of the above in any given order. Some of the Shadowrun sourcebooks make things a little more realistic and complex; there are good street docs and very very bad ones.
    • An amusing yet disturbing anecdote in 4e's Corporate Enclaves supplement concerns a group of street docs so sloppy that they didn't even bother to clean their bone drill while installing a datajack. Which means, they did brain surgery with unsterilized instruments. Their hapless customer staggered into another street doc's office a day later with a "106-degree fever". As commented upon by another NPC, herself a street doc known for not quite being the Mayo clinic:
      Butch: Compared to these ham-fisted goons I am a fucking goddess.
  • Rifts features "body chop-shops" and mentions the possibility of characters being given Arm Cannons rather than proper cyborg hands. This is mostly a bad thing. There's actually a character type modeled after this trope, the Body Fixer. Most Body Fixers are motivated by a desire to help and heal people, but they can't hold medical licenses because consorting with their second-class citizen patients makes them outlaws.
  • R. Talsorian Games' Cyberpunk had "ripperdocs" - doctors with mini-clinics who provided emergency medical services, cyberware installation and prescription drugs.
  • Encounter Critical supplement Asteroid 1618. In the Domed City there's a flower shop with a ramshackle hospital in the back for criminals who can't receive care in the Medical Complex.
  • Myriad Song has the "Bad Medicine" Gift, which enables a character to remove most combat-inflicted status effects with a check and some bonus dice. But if the patient fails a check they can become addicted to the substances used. Naturally, the Pusher career starts with it.

    Theatre 
  • Used in the musical of Spring Awakening, when Wendla's mother arranges for a back-alley abortion rather than face the shame of her fourteen year old daughter bearing a child. It does not go well.
  • Arsenic and Old Lace: Dr. Einstein, the alcoholic plastic surgeon.
  • Alluded to in A Raisin in the Sun. When Ruth Younger slips that "*she* said everything's going to be fine" following a supposed visit to the doctor regarding her pregnancy, her mother-in-law Lena instantly realizes she has instead consulted the local abortionist (the family is poor and cannot afford another baby), although she ultimately does not go through with the procedure.

    Video Games 
  • The Amateur Surgeon series are the definition of this trope. The first game is you learning to be a Back Alley Doctor from a worn out cough syrup addicted Back alley doctor. The sequel reveals the main character went on to found schools across the country dedicated to training Back alley doctors who could operate anywhere with anything (and the Facebook spin-off game focuses on running one of said clinics). It made him a world famous celebrity and millionaire. In the game, you're tasked with solving various unusual cases with improvised tools such as pizza cutters for scalpels, a lighter to cauterize wounds and a chainsaw in place of a bonesaw.
  • Grand Theft Auto series.
    • Grand Theft Auto: Vice City has a paranoid, drunk off of potent alcohol fumes Phil Cassidy request to be taken to one of these after losing his arm, stating that he doesn't trust the hospital.
    • Grand Theft Auto IV: Roman suffers a non-lethal shot and goes to one of these. He tells Niko the doctor was even more filthy than the basement where he got shot.

      A later mission tasks you with driving two murdered corpses to one of these so they can be "fixed up" to be made to look like they have died of natural causes as well as have their organs removed to be sold in the black market.
  • Fallout series
    • The Doctor in the Vault City courtyard in Fallout 2 probably fits a lot of this trope as well. Then again, he never does the procedure himself, but leaves the job to his slightly malfunctioning Auto-Doc.
    • Fallout 3: Wasteland doctors. Even the 'official' doctors are slightly suspect, one being twelve, another a former raider and one working for slavers.
      • That twelve-year-old girl is the best trained pseudo-doctor in the game, except for the PC's father. Makes you realize just how bad the Capital Wasteland has it.
      • And the Mister Handy assigned as Vault 101's doctor after James leaves and Jonas is killed, which attempts to treat a sprained toe but accidentally amputates the patient's other leg, causing her death.
      • Point Lookout has Tobar the Ferryman, who administers lobotomies to the Tribal initiates while they are tripping on Punga spores.
    • In Fallout: New Vegas, Ada Straus, the doctor in Novac says things like "Did I leave you outside overnight, again? I'll uh, give you a free tetanus shot," and "What are the chances I'll botch the same procedure twice in one day?" when she operates on you.
      Straus's bodyguard: Between you and me, I don't think she studied at an accredited institution.
    • Even better, when you go to her to cure your addiction she lets slip that she's a drug dealer trying to get people addicted before realizing what you want. Also she hasn't paid her bodyguards and her reasoning for curing your radiation is well... hilarious.
      Ada Straus: Are you sure? You won't be able to read in the dark anymore.
    • Finally, a quick peek at her medicine skill level via console or examining the game data will reveal that she is quite possibly the least qualified doctor to exist in all of Fallout's long history, and yet somehow manages to not kill the Courier in the course of healing them. She is also the only doctor to provide a weapon for sale on short notice.
  • In Kingdom of Loathing, you can get a sex change operation in The Sleazy Back Alley. If you do it thirty times through your many lives, you get a Cosmetic Award.
  • SaGa Frontier features a borderline example: a sleazy Mystic doctor named Dr. Nusakan in the back alleys of Koorong that you can recruit into your party. The ghost in his lobby and his general creepiness lend to the idea that his practice is less about medicine and more about making a front for his own vampiric tendencies. (he is a Mystic after all). On the other hand, he is rather knowledgeable — though his knowledge seems to be more on spiritual than medical matters. Either way, he is still a quite literal back alley doctor considering where you find him. The only time he's of any use is in Riki's story — he knows how to save the Yorkland millionaire's daughter from her Demonic Possession.
  • Pal Meraktis in Apollo Justice: Ace Attorney. Do a little shuffle, and a little Malpractice falls right out.
  • Plot-important NPC Dhagon Ghent in Knights of the Old Republic II. As one of his friends said when he was suspected of murder:
    "I know Dhagon personally. He's one of the worst doctors I've ever heard of. But I can't see him deliberately killing someone."
  • In City of Villains, you change your costumes and appearance at a back alley plastic surgeon's office called the Face Maker. Not only do the doctors here operate in a filthy hospital, with un-sterile tools, but if you go around a Cap Au Diable for a while you'll find enemies murdering civilians to get skin grafts for the Face Maker to use. Geez...
  • The Jagged Alliance series of mercenary roleplaying games include a variety of this type of characters, who can be hired to patch up bullet-riddled mercs. They usually do the job at least decently, unless you make the mistake of hiring "Dr." Raffito "Raffi" Leewon...

    It's kind of hard to be 'fooled' by his credentials, given that his profile lists his Medical Skill (2 or 3 out of a possible 100) and even his Dexterity. (Which affects all skills is somewhere in the 10s or 20s... out of 100) On the other hand, the profile doesn't mention how skilled he is with a knife...
  • Hitman: Agent 47 gets treated by one of these in Contracts after a job goes bad, with whiskey for a disinfectant. It doesn't look pleasant, but 47 is good for one more mission an hour or so later. Of course, he's Agent 47...
  • In The Godfather: The Game, when you get killed you usually respawn in these folks' clinics. While the sound bites clearly show that they are meant to be these, mentioning how they're not qualified and asking not to be reported, the fact that some operate street-side clinics dents the portrayal somewhat.
  • In Ever17, on Coco's route, it is revealed that Tsugumi resorted to one of these in the past while on the run. The game doesn't give much detail about him, but the CD drama "After You've Gone" confirms him to be a total scumbag.
  • Shenmue II has many back-alley doctors and dentists in the Kowloon Walled City, which was Truth In Video Games because a quirk of political status meant that there was basically no government there.
  • Team Fortress 2: The Medic, having lost his license in an incident involving a patient's skeleton going missing, counts as one of these crossed with a Mad Scientist.
    • Played for Laughs (what else?) in the first issue of the "Ring of Fired" comic. The RED Pyro hacks off RED Soldier's hand, but since the circumstances have made it so that their Medic isn't available, Soldier is brought to a roadside vet to get his hand reattached. Soldier takes it in stride. The vet is the one who looks traumatized (probably from Soldier wanting to shake with his just reattached hand).
  • The Shadowrun video games for SNES and Genesis both feature Street Docs of questionable skill. The one in the SNES game is literally found in a Back Alley and succeeds in setting of a Time Bomb that was implanted in the main character... during a routine checkup.
  • In Mass Effect 1, Garrus' loyalty mission involves hunting down a rogue doctor named Saleon, who uses his employees as test tubes to grow cloned organs that he can sell on the black market.
  • Borderlands features Dr. Zed, who supplies the page quote. He was a surgeon until he lost his license, and these days he keeps the Auto Doc machines stocked and running. He also seems to still practice medicine to some degree — he's introduced cutting up a cadaver and his various offices have hospital beds and equipment.
    • In Borderlands 2, he is legally obligated to tell you that he is not a real doctor. His lack of a medical doctorate becomes a running gag. He's even compared to other "not-actual-doctors" such as Dr. Pepper, Dr. Dre, and Dr. Octopus.
  • Dr. Grossman, one of the Splicer types in BioShock, may have had professional training and credentials once. But then he started doing ADAM, and these days... well, he doesn't believe germs are microscopic, he sorts his pills by color, and he often totes around boxes of explosives without much reason.
  • A few of the medic companions in The Old Republic seem to have some dubious credentials and medical practices. One of them has performed questionable experiments on himself and can transform into a rakghoul, and another one tries to scam people into thinking he's actually a Jedi Healer. Even the Jedi Knight's medic is a bit of a glory hound whose ability to cure rare diseases is only overshadowed by his tendency to consort with Hutts and various other criminals (and then get into trouble with alarming regularity). In another case, a back alley doctor working for some pirates swears by his medical license that some 200 year old antidote will work - the REAL medical license, that is.

    Webcomics 
  • Awkward Zombie: Dr. Mario, according to this strip.
  • VG Cats: The late, great Dr. Hobo gave the impression of being one of these, although it was kinda hard to tell at times.
  • Ansem Retort makes Zexion into this.
    Zexion: ...Whatever. Just place him in the operating room.
    [Beat Panel]
    Zexion: THE KITCHEN! Just throw his bloody corpse-to-be on the kitchen counter.
  • Miki from FreakAngels isn't so much a back-alley doctor as a doctor with no degree, license, new equipment or electricity, and no civilization around to give her any of them. Her psychic powers letting her act as a human MRI help a great deal.
    • She also learned a lot of medicine by reading the minds of the doctors investigating her psychic powers before the world ended.
  • Hanna Is Not a Boy's Name gives us this in the person of the charming and only slightly seedy Doc Worth. In Hanna's own words, "Ok, well. He's not really technically a doctor. He's actually a dropout. Aannnd he's not certified or anything. But he's not too bad! heh."
  • Myriam Etheless from Vigil is an unlicensed surgeon who was kicked out of med school due to failing the psyche exam. She none the less saves the lives of one of the main characters, and proves all around competent if morally questionable.
  • In Homestuck, Wheelchair Woobie Tavros gets a new set of robot legs to use...but Kanaya has to remove his old ones first. With a chainsaw.
  • In Boy Aurus, to acquiesce with Aurus' request for no hospital, Mint and Niccolo take him to a veterinarian.
  • The prohibition dodging moonshine smuggling characters in Lackadaisy call up a horse doctor (who looks a little like Groucho Marx) when some small-time rivals raid their establishment and one of them gets shot.
  • Navaan, the Vampire from NSFW OGLAF poses as a doctor for bloodletting purposes, but doesn't exactly know what a doctor does. When a man comes in with an infected arm, her solution is to pack the wound with dirt and plant an acorn in it so he grows an awesome tree arm. Unsurprisingly, this doesn't work.
  • Celia on The Order of the Stick visits a back-alley wizard, Hieronymus Grubwriggler, to resurrect Roy.
  • Pretty much all the entire staff of Awful Hospital have no idea what they're doing or how the human body works.
    • Though they are able to bring anyone back from death. They just make one crucial mistake per attempt, such as leaving the brain in an external bag connected to the head. Still worked perfectly, though.

    Web Original 
  • Amateur Surgeon: [adult swim]'s Back Alley version of the Trauma Center game. The protagonist Alan Probe uses makeshift tools — such as a pizza cutter in lieu of a scalpel — to help people who are Too Dumb to Live. Available as a video game in numerous locations. Also has a Christmas edition.
  • Mario from There Will Be Brawl never actually went to med-school. Sort of a running gag and brick joke for his long list of previous professions.
  • Every so often there is a story about one of these on What the Fuck Is Wrong with You?. One week had an unlicensed dentist get busted for it. The next had his wife busted for the same thing. They've also covered a couple of the real life examples down below.

    Western Animation 
  • The Simpsons: Although he's implied to have possessed a medical degree, Dr. Nick Riviera is otherwise the epitome of this trope. In a one-off gag, Moe is seen to be performing back-alley surgeries out of his bar, even distributing business cards that read "That's right - I'm a surgeon!" He's shown to be rather popular with the criminal types on the show, and those short on cash. (In fact, even a licensed doctor recommended him!)
    Snake: Yo, I must've, like, fell on a bullet, and it, like, drove itself into my gut.
    Dr Nick: You don't have to lie here... save that for court.
  • Futurama
    • Pictured above, one of these offers to sell Fry a set of gills in exchange for his lungs, under the reasoning that he'd have no need for them, thanks to his new gills. Needless to say, Leela is forced to prevent the operation by way of boots applied to faces.
    • Also Dr. Zoidberg. While he did get into medical school, he probably got kicked out of there, because he has very little knowledge about human biology. Just look at some his quotes:
      Zoidberg: So many years and so many strange fluids coming out of patient's bodies.
      -
      Morgan: And Doctor Zoidberg, do you even have a medical degree?
      Zoidberg: I... lost it... into a volcano.
      -
      Zoidberg: What's your problem?
      Fry: (impaled by a lead pipe) Well uh, my lead pipe hurts a little.
      Zoidberg: That's normal, next.
      -
      Bender: Where are we, the ass?
      Professor Farnsworth: We're in the heart, better known as the love muscle.
      Zoidberg: Where the food is digested!
      -
      Zoidberg: (looking at Leela's X-ray) Well, here's your problem right here. You've got a skull embedded in your head.
      -
      Zoidberg: I don't quite know how to say this... Fry is dead.
      Everyone Gasps
      Fry Groans
      Zoidberg: Wait, not dead, the other thing.
    • Not to mention the Human Anatomy Chart in his office is always upside-down.
    • Dr. Zoidberg's degree is actually in Art History.
      • A field in which he actually is competent.
    • He starts the series off with this gem:
      Zoidberg: Now open your mouth... No not that one.
      Fry: It's the only one I've got.
      Zoidberg: Really?
    • Immediately followed up with
      Fry: Is there a human doctor around?
      Zoidberg: Young lady, I am an expert on humans!
      • It's vaguely hinted a few times that Zoidberg is a perfectly fine physician when it comes to his own species, though.
    • In the Comedy Central seasons Hermes gets cyborg upgrades from a Russian surgeon who operates on his desk and uses his scalpels as darts. He's the gentleman pictured at the top of the page, scamming Fry out of his lungs.
  • Joked about on Family Guy: "I wouldn't have used that discount surgeon", and "That time we found out Meg's gynecologist didn't go to medical school" are the lead-ins.
    • Another one was one of the few references that didn't lead to a segue:
      Peter: You said the same thing about that back-alley abortionist. Don't get me wrong, I'm glad you changed your mind, but the point is, I found the guy.
    • Doctor Hartman is pretty much this, only somehow with a license, real or otherwise.
      Do you have any idea how expensive medical school is? I imagine it's pretty expensive!
  • In Aqua Teen Hunger Force, Shake gets a nose job in Guatemala. Later a guy (fresh from prison for back-alley surgery) in a van comes by to help reconstruct Shake's messed up face.
    • This may not be the same guy Carl visited to acquire a black-market secondhand brain for Meatwad.
      Meatwad: We callin' in the pros now. Is your buddy out of prison yet?
      Carl: Which one? 'Cause there's three.
      Meatwad: Oh, you know which one: The guy who was in the hotel... with the people... and the welding.
      Carl: Oh, Terry. Yeah, he's out, but part of his parole is he's not supposed to, ya know, do what he was doing... to flesh.
  • In The Grim Adventures of Billy & Mandy, Billy's dad Harold is depicted as a straight example in the episode The Secret Snake Club VS P.E.. Billy's classmates go to him to be excused from gym class by offering him fried food such as fried cheese sticks. Harold wouldn't give Billy any excuse because he wouldn't be a good father otherwise.
  • American Dad! has an episode in which Francine becomes one of these, working for the Cripple Mafia with her fellow doctor, a teddy bear. In the end, she gets out of her role with the mafia by tricking them into getting themselves all killed by police.
  • Matthew Thorne from the appropriately-named Batman: The Animated Series episode "The Crime Doctor". He lost his license for not informing the police when he pulled a bullet out of his brother, notorious crime boss Rupert Thorne. He was relegated to a licenseless, back alley existence afterwards, mostly working for his brother.
  • In Ben 10: Ultimate Alien, it was not played even a little bit for comedy in the episode "Catch a Falling Star." A past villain wants a new face. He goes to a veterinarian who owes him a favor. The amount of blood found by the heroes later was apparently impressive. However, it's hard to be sure if they mean leftovers from the surgery or if it's from what Nesmith did to the only guy who knew what he now looked like. This episode is generally considered the height of the franchise's use of Cerebus Syndrome.

    Real Life 
  • The Darwin Awards told a story of someone who had a back-alley liposuction procedure. Since it's the Darwin Awards, you can guess the outcome.
  • While hiding out in Buenos Aires, Josef Mengele continued to "practice medicine," specializing in illegal abortions and getting at least one patient killed.
  • There was a case where a woman was giving people cheap butt implants made of cement, mineral oil, and tire sealant.
  • In Kowloon Walled City in Hong Kong, there were quite a few dentists who may or may not of had qualifications. Often the conditions were unhygienic as well.
  • Plague doctors during the Renaissance were primarily this. Most of them were failed doctors, aka they either were unable to pass medical school or had their licenses revoked. Despite that though, there is something a bit admirable about people who took on a job that, not only was the pay lousy for the time, but they had a very real chance of dying of plague themselves. Even so, they would try to help anyone that suffered from the black death. They were, however, not quite as discreet or illegal as most of the examples on this game since plague doctors were essentially hired by towns as public servants.
    • Considering the state of medical practice and knowledge at the time, they possibly weren't any worse than the other licensed doctors in practice either.
  • Dr. John R. Brinkley, also known as "the Goat Gland Doctor", made millions of dollars (in the early 1900s) selling operations in which he "improved male virility" by transplanting goat testicles into people. It's unknown how many people died as a result, but Brinkley kept on operating even after he lost his license in every state that had given him one. Unlike most back-alley doctors, he stayed in the public eye - even running for governor of Kansas twice. What finally brought him down was a libel suit he filed against Morris Fishbein of the FDA, which exposed just how bad his practices were and led to him dying alone, bankrupt, and broken in Mexico.
  • Even by the standards of the time, field hospitals during the American Civil War were horrific and unsanitary places, with primitive conditions and surgeons who might only have rudimentary training as best (not exactly necessary when a substantial amount of treatment involved amputation).
  • During World War I and World War II, combat medics were often recruited from enlistees whose only prior experience was handling knives as butchers or living on a farm. Some medics didn't even have that much experience. Fortunately, their purpose was more to keep casualties alive long enough to be taken to receive advanced care rather than operating on the wounded themselves...

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