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Back-Alley Doctor

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"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 a 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; veterinarians working on humans is a common occurrence. Horse vets operating on gangsters is practically a trope in and of itself due to the established links between organized crime and horse racing.


Such a doctor is a staple figure in Cyberpunk 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 Organ Theft or unlocking Neuro Vaults.

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


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    Anime and Manga 
  • 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 Gangbangers.
  • Dr. Daisuke Ido from Battle Angel Alita is an unusually sympathetic and competent one; he was a licensed doctor back on Tiphares and knows perfectly well what he's doing, but he currently lives in a near-lawless Mega City on a post-apocalyptic Earth That Was, so it's hard for him to be anything but a Back-Alley Doctor. Still, he's devoted to practicing medicine, and is practically the closest thing to a proper doctor that the Scrapyard has.
  • 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.
  • Referenced in Death Note, when Kira and the Task Force are trying to find Mello after he blew up a building to escape the Japanese police, reasoning that (since they Never Found the Body) he must be alive...but that there's no way he's uninjured. They're right; Mello survived the explosion, but was badly burnt on the left side of his face and torso. They talk to numerous doctors and nurses all over the place, and mention that some of them were not legitimate. None of them recognized anyone that looked like Mello as Linda had drawn him years ago (that drawing being the only image of Mello they have). It is not known who treated Mello's burns or how, although popular fan theory (particularly among the Yaoi Fangirls) is that it was his companion, Matt, who is not known to have any medical knowledge or training.
  • 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. Or perhaps due to being the local medic for all the Yakuza in Ikebukuro, able to handle bullet removals and other "necessary repairs," on the spot, on the quiet, no questions asked, confidentiality guaranteed,note  he gets paid well.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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"
  • Nanachi of Made in Abyss, a humanoid bunny who gained their medical skills partly from an evil Mad Scientist and partly through years of experimenting on an immortal grotesque mutant (intending to find a way to kill her). Reg has little choice but to accept Nanachi's help after Riko nearly suffers a Rasputinian Death many kilometers below civilization, and Nanachi doesn't take the situation very seriously (Reg is sent on an errand for "supplies," most of which turns out to be Nanachi's dinner). Downplayed, though, as Nanachi has serious expertise hidden behind their strange techniques and personality, managing to save Riko and (mostly) fix her seriously injured arm (she was injected with deadly poison, and Reg tried to amputate it). It's implied that legitimate human doctors on the surface could not have pulled this off.
  • Mikio fills this role in the semifinal episode of Megalo Box when he helps Yuri remove his Gear. While Mikio does have the credentials to perform the operation, he does so on his own in a cabin in the woods without access to a team, proper disinfection or access to the ideal equipment, plus his patient refuses anesthesia due to Macho Masochism.
  • 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).
  • 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 Princess Sarah is a realistic example from Victorian England — a medical practitioner brought low by his alcoholism, whose only selling point is his cheap consultation fee.
  • Ray the Animation: Ray 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).

    Audio Plays 
  • Big Finish Doctor Who: In Spare parts, Thomas Dodd is a shady character running an, at best, quasi-legal business specialising in cut-rate organ and limb transplants. And he's not too fussy about how he acquires his stock.

  • The third painting in William Hogarth's Marriage A-la-Mode sees Viscount Squanderfield visiting Monsieur de la Pillule (roughly translated, Mr. Pill), a French quack, to seek treatment for the case of syphilis he has given a young girl. The doctor's office is decorated with a narwhal tusk and comb, suggesting that, like many back-alley doctors in the 1700s, he trained as a barber first and came to medicine later, and other trappings in his office imply that he has had brushes with the law. He also dabbles in inventing terrifying medical devices that look more likely to make patients worse than better, such as a contraption intended to re-set dislocated shoulders that looks like it belongs in a torture chamber. The Viscount presumably values discretion over qualifications when it comes to seeking treatment for venereal disease.

    Comic Books 
  • 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 Cyberpunk 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 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.
  • The teenage 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 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. The doc is a tragic case of The Alcoholic, and his introduction is one of the comic's few genuine Tear Jerker moments.
  • A story of such a doctor motivated or better yet victimised by love appears in the Anthology Comic Strange Tales by Marvel Comics. Despite having a license he is pushed by his callous, greedy wife into accepting less than legal jobs in order to fund her expensive lifestyle and in fear of losing her he agrees. And finally he realises that he has already lost her to this lifestyle when she appears gravely injured and a gangster-customer's girlfriend.
  • Dr Mid-Nite from Justice Society of America technically qualifies; his license was revoked, and he runs a free clinic in a rundown area, often catering to fellow superheroes who can't get standard care without blowing their secret identities. Unlike most examples, he's actually a brilliant physician and the loss of his license wasn't the result of malpractice.

    Fan Fiction 
  • In the pro wrestling alternate universe story, The Horsewomen Of Las Vegas, Sasha Banks winds up this for Becky Lynch against her will. Sasha is a fully-certified nurse practitioner, and Becky insists on going to her for any injuries she suffers, much to Sasha's annoyance. Later in the story, after she loses her job at the local hospital due to her using a chemical restraint on Becky's Co-Dragon #1, ODB, and unable to find work anywhere else because of it, Sasha reluctantly agrees to work at a clinic being funded by Becky's organization, with the expectation that she would treat Becky and her gang off the record.

  • The Banishment (2007) has three Back-Alley Doctors. The first two come to perform an illegal abortion on the female lead, then the third one is called in when the latter doesn't recover from the surgery.
  • In Batman (1989), Jack Napier, the man who will become the Joker visits a gangland back-alley surgeon in an attempt to get his face restructured after he takes a bullet to the face followed by a plunge into toxic waste in 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.
  • City Heat (1984). 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.
  • Cloud Atlas: The shady character of Ovid, who removes Sonmi~451's collar to allow her to appear to be a pureblood.
  • 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.
  • Cruel Story of Youth: Kiyoshi brings Makoto to Akimoto's grungy clinic in order to get an illegal abortion. After Kiyoshi and Makoto get arrested for something else, Kiyoshi rats Akimoto out in order to escape punishment himself.
  • 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."
  • 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.
  • Hotel Artemis features the titular abandoned hotel-turned-hospital for criminals, which is a pretty advanced version of this, on top of being declared a Truce Zone by the local underworld. The events of the film occur during a night when multiple people, from hoodlums to assassins to The Dreaded local major crime lord, all decide for various reasons that the truce can go to hell.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Lady Snowblood 2: Love Song of Vengeance: Shusuke runs a hidden back alley clinic in the slums. Lady Snowblood, a fugitive from justice, staggers in after she's shot by the cops.
  • Love with the Proper Stranger has a non-doctor abortionist working in a backroom in conditions so horrifying that the protagonists flee in terror without submitting to the procedure, despite having already paid a considerable sum of money up front.
  • 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 forgot about the rotten sandwich and milk in the fridge next to the acceptable ones, to the dismay of his temporarily-blinded patient.
  • Played with in Mission: Impossible III. In the climax, Ethan Hunt pursues the villains down a back alley and into a house which to his surprise turns out to be a surgery (presumably unlicensed). Unlike other examples of this trope the hospital is neat and well-equipped.
  • Outland: Dr. Lazarus points out that most of the In-Universe Frontier Doctor corps are this in all but name, trying their damnedest to out-run legal problems on more civilized parts of the system.
  • Panic In Needle Park: The Back Alley Doctor never appears onscreen, but the film opens with Helen returning home from receiving an illegal 1971 back-alley abortion. Whoever did it did a bad job as Helen won't stop bleeding and has to go to the hospital.
  • Payback opens with Porter getting bullets dug out of his back by an alcoholic Back Alley Doctor (scalpels sterilised in whiskey and all).
  • 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.
  • Sin City: A Dame to Kill For. After being kneecapped and having his fingers broken in punishment for beating Senator Roark at cards, Johnny trades his expensive shoes to such a doctor (played by Christopher Lloyd) so he'll fix him up enough for another round. The doctor shooting himself up with heroin before the operation doesn't make Johnny feel any better, but he does a decent enough job.
  • 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.
  • In 10 Rillington Place, John Christie isn't a doctor, not even the Back Alley variety. What he is, is a Serial Killer, and he pretends to be a Back Alley Doctor to lure women into his clutches. He kills one woman who comes to him to cure her chronic cough, another who wanted an illegal abortion, and another who wanted relief from migraines.
  • The Tribe has a back-alley abortionist working out of her home with instrument sterilized over her stove.
  • Mike Leigh's film Vera Drake is about Vera, a sympathetic back alley abortionist in London in the years when abortion was illegal.
  • 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.

  • There's an old, bitter joke in the medical community that goes like this: "What do you call someone who graduates last in their class at med school? Doctor."note 
    • And as George Carlin points out, someone probably has an appointment with him/her tomorrow.

  • 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 set before Roe vs. Wade. 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. On the other hand, Dr. Garcia actually has high ethical and professional standards. When he says "no pain, all clean" you can believe it.
  • The Alice Network:
    • Violette, who used to be a nurse but doesn’t have the qualifications or experience she would need for surgery, is a rare ethical example of this trope. She is very honest about her capabilities and the chances of her patient’s survival. She helps her patient look through her options, but they decide to go through with the surgery anyway.
    • Finn mentions that he found a doctor for Eve via his blackmarket connections who was willing to overlook the suspicious circumstances.
  • 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.
  • In Alan E. Nourse's The Bladerunner note  an entire network of back alley doctors have arisen due to the draconian Health Control laws that require anyone receiving government funded health care be sterilized after the age of five. Subverted a bit in that the doctors in question are almost always legitimate medical practitioners operating on the side, with clean and safe surgical supplies provided by the titular Bladerunners.
  • 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.
    • Arbus, a similar character appearing in Blood Pact, is a medicae working for the criminal underground since he lost his license due to medical malpractice.
  • 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.
  • 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 of 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 (since in Ankh-Morpork, standard medical practice is just keeping the patient alive long enough to pay. Living beyond that is seen as a nice bonus for the patient). 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 he performs 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 who are unhappy) than letting a human die. He has a weird habit of forgetting when his patients aren't horses, but only when talking about them. When in his care, he becomes single-minded and implacable until he's done.
    • And the 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.
  • 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.
  • In The Dresden Files, coroner Waldo Butters plays this role for Harry, especially when the hospital isn't a safe option note . Butters, for his part, often protests that he's not qualified, but Dresden talks him into it.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Brawne Lamia and Johnny 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.
  • 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.
  • MARZENA has Dr. Samir, an illegal alien magic plastic surgery surgeon, who is also known as the Face Maker, and who for the right price will make you "disappear." And there's also Private Thomas who operates on people by using only his Augmented Reality Glasses, which uses holographic magic to show him everything a real surgeon would need to do.
  • 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.
  • In Newes from the Dead, Anne buys an abortion potion from a wise woman. It doesn't work, but she has a gruesome miscarriage some weeks later. Anne herself is not very confident in the wise woman's skills.
  • Parker: In The Man With the Getaway Face, Parker attends a clinic run by a highly skilled plastic surgeon who was blacklisted in Hollywood due to his former membership of the Communist Party. These days he specializes in providing new faces to members of the underworld.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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 The Sisters Grimm, the local dentist is Frau Pfefferkuchenhaus. As in, the gingerbread house witch from Hansel and Gretel. She admits to having no medical training whatsoever, and when her patient mumbles about seeing her license, she gives him more anaesthetic.
  • In The Stainless Steel Rat books, Jim once uses such a doctor for plastic surgery. The guy was fired after his drinking problems led to a patient's death, so Jim had to add vomiting powder to all the alcohol antiseptic as a safety measure.
  • 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 Doppelgänger who got that license for him. Things go downhill from there.
  • 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.)

    Live-Action TV 
  • Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.: Skye's father is introduced acting as one of these, until SHIELD tracks him down and he's forced to flee. From then on, he abandons any semblance of legitimate work in order fight back against those he considers his enemies.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Batwoman (2019): Kate's stepsister Mary (ostensibly a ditzy socialite) secretly runs an unlicensed clinic for the poor and homeless. Batwoman occasionally uses its services to provide medical aid to people she needs information from but who she can't turn into a legitimate hospital.
  • The Boys (2019). In Season 2, Mother's Milk is shown providing these services (although his training is only as a combat medic) to a street gang in exchange for hiding The Boys while they're federal fugitives.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • CSI:
    • 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 The Expanse, the medic aboard the Canterbury is revealed to have flunked out of medical school, a fact he readily admits when confronted with it. It's implied that the captain, and the company that owned the ship, were aware of his lack of qualifications.
    • Sgt. Draper encounters one of these in a homeless camp on Earth. He's actually shown to be fairly knowledgable and to care deeply for his "patients". He also apparently got into medical school, but has been on the waiting list for a slot on a course to open up for thirty five years.
  • Firefly: Simon Tam is crew doctor on what is essentially a smuggling ship, so he works under the radar, same as everyone else on board. He is a licensed first class surgeon from a civilized world and simply happens to be there because of difficulties with The Government (namely, saving his sister from being experimented on).
  • In Game of Thrones, the ex-maester Qyburn was probably this (since they ditched his book backstory as the Bloody Mummers' field medic). He is an example of the "lost his licence for breach of ethics" sort, as he is actually the most competent doctor in the series with a far superior knowledge of the body than other maesters... because of his tendency to cut people open and see how it all works. His talents even extend to some form of necromancy.
  • 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. (This is a bit of an inside joke. Methos' actor, Peter Wingfield, studied to be a doctor before becoming an actor. These days he's an anesthesiologist.)
  • Kamen Rider:
    • 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.
    • Taiga Hanaya/Kamen Rider Snipe from Kamen Rider Ex-Aid. He's also an expy to Black Jack, being an unlicensed doctor with white streaks in his hair. He used to be a radiologist working at Seito University Hospital, but the events of Zero Day caused him to lose his license, reputation and (as he thought) future. He has office in Abandoned Hospital and wears black scrubs at times for no apparent reason other than Visual Pun of his name being involved. note 
  • The various Law & Order series have them come up from time to time. One example in SVU was a practitioner of general medicine who performed surgical castrations and penis removals on (completely willing) subjects. When the cops came to talk to him he was entirely open about doing so, saying he did it right there on his desk... "I clean up first. I am a doctor".
  • Despite only being a nurse, Claire Temple takes up the role throughout the Marvel Television Netflix shows, using her medical skills to patch up anyone with whatever she can scrounge up, whether it be patching up Matt Murdock in her apartment or getting a Judas bullet out of Luke Cage with the help of a Mad Scientist.
  • In an episode of Malcolm in the Middle, it’s revealed that the boys regularly visit a teenage one of these to patch up the various injuries they don’t want to have to explain to Lois. He’s actually pretty good at it, and is able to fix Hal’s dislocated kneed.
  • M*A*S*H:
    • Major Frank Burns may be a qualified medical doctor and surgeon, but only just. As the series progresses, his mediocrity shows more and more, as does his tendency to cut corners, misdiagnose, perform sloppy work and crumble under pressure. It is revealed that he graduated pretty low in his year at medical school (see "Jokes" above) and things come to a head when his botched work imperils the lives of several patients. Hawkeye and Trapper John even agree that they'd be better off with a back-alley doctor.
    • In one episode the 4077th takes on a doctor who appears to be a top-class surgeon. But Hawkeye investigates further and discovers they have an imposter, a wannabee doctor who has Walter Mitty fantasies and who has never been to medical school. Hawkeye threatens to expose him unless he quits - but tells him he's a natural, and should consider formally going to medical school to legitimise the situation.
  • The 1990's series McCallum had a drug supply clerk treating illegal refugees, believing that doctors just went down a list of symptoms and prescribed the appropriate drug. As a result people start turning up on McCallum's autopsy table. At one point the police arrest a doctor, but McCallum argues against him being a suspect as he's too competent.
  • 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.
    • In the first season episode "Sophia Lopez," Dr. Grayson appears to be operating out of a tiny, dirty office. While drunk. Sean discovers this after assisting a transgender patient whose operation was botched.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • At least two appear in 1000 Ways to Die. Being the kind of show that it is... well...
  • The Outer Limits (1995): In "Unnatural Selection", Arkelian administers black market genetic engineering treatments to Joanne Sharp's unborn child in an abandoned church.
  • Person of Interest. After Reese 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.
  • 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.
  • 30 Rock: "Dr." Spaceman is a bad enough doctor that he is legally required to put quotation marks around his "doctor" title.
  • The Norwegian series Valkyrien (and the British remake Temple), about a doctor who creates an illegal clinic so he can conduct experimental surgery to save his dying wife, and has to fund it by providing services to criminals and other people who want medical help outside legal channels.

  • 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.
  • 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."
  • "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."
  • 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.
  • The (real) wandering doctor Eisenbart is depicted as this in an old German song, "My Name is Doctor Eisenbart." 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)
  • Victoria Wood's "Northerners" has a Bread, Eggs, Milk, Squick moment when, after listing various comedy Oop North stereotypes such as whippets and tripe, she concludes "Dead at forty-five/From a back-street abortionist/(It's terrible.)"

    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.
  • Dr Enos Pork from The Piranha Club. He does run his own clinic, but his degree is from an unacredited university in South America, he has been seen offering roadside services more than once, and he constantly misdiagnoses every ailment as "malaria". He did successfully perform Sid's kidney stone operation, but that was mainly because the alcohol he gave Sid instead onf anasthesia ended up dissolving the kidney stones.

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

  • Dr. Héctor Tilla from the NYC-based Spanish-language radio show El Vacilón de la Mañana.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Call of Cthulhu supplement The Asylum and Other Tales, adventure "The Auction". Dr. Verhamme claims to be a doctor but can't provide a diploma or any other proof. He spends most of his time performing illegal abortions. When he was called in to treat Klaus Hunderprest's wife, he diagnosed her as having incurable end-stage cancer and could do nothing for her.
  • 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.
  • 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. They are also the only kind of doctor that is available to people without a SIN or can't afford Docwagon.
    • 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 (who's a very good street doc, being an actual trained and licensed surgeon in her day job):
      Butch: Compared to these ham-fisted goons I am a fucking goddess.
    • Many Shadowrunner groups tend to cut out the middleman and run as one themselves for this reason; not only is a Player Character street doc guaranteed not to (intentionally) kill their companions, but it can be a very useful civilian guise between runs and the skill and logic investment overlaps well with certain archetypes like the Rigger or the Decker. Don't expect the Street Samurai to moonlight as this though, for obvious reasons.
  • 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.
    • It worsens when you consider a body-chop-shop's no-questions-asked approach to acquiring cybernetic and bionic parts; quite apart from the hygiene and quality of the work and supplies (which the patient has no say in anyway) it has led to gangs who mug you and steal cyber-parts right out of you and leave you there, not caring whether you die or not, to sell the parts to the chop shop ("doctor, why do I get the feeling we've installed this eye three times today?" "Quiet, you! Ten bucks says you're not even a real nurse!")

  • 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.
  • Arsenic and Old Lace: If one reads between the lines it doesn't take a genius to realise that Dr. Einstein, the alcoholic plastic surgeon is most likely a doctor in all but license, which could possibly be linked to his alcoholism. This also sheds some light to the story of him getting involved with underworld type Jonathan Brewster.
  • Men in White: Offstage, Barbara went to one for an abortion. She is wheeled into the hospital in septic shock, as the doctors talk about how tragic it is that women have to go to back-alley doctors. An emergency hysterectomy seems to save her, but she winds up dying of an embolism.
  • 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.
  • The Mrs. Hawking play series: Nurse Violet Strallan, who struggles to keep employment because of her problems with alcohol, is the one to take care of Mrs. Hawking after her fight with the Ripper at the end of Fallen Women.

    Video Games 
  • The Amateur Surgeon series by [adult swim], a Back Alley version of the Trauma Center series. The protagonist is named Alan Probe, and the first game has him learning to be a Back Alley Doctor from a worn out, cough syrup-addicted former surgeon who fell into misery after a certain incident in his hospital. The sequels reveal that Alan went on to establish the form of surgery he used as "Improvised Surgery", which led to hospitals around the world to adopt it and in turn the foundation of back alley clinics (a Facebook spin-off game focuses on running one of said clinics, and the bonus act of the third main game in the series takes place in one too). It made him a world famous celebrity and millionaire. In the games, you're tasked with solving unusual cases, mostly from people who are Too Dumb to Live, with improvised tools such as pizza cutters for scalpels, a lighter to cauterize wounds and a chainsaw in place of a bonesaw.
  • Pal Meraktis in Apollo Justice: Ace Attorney. It's right in his Punny Name, just swap the first letters around and read it again. His medical skills are fine, but he moonlights as a doctor for the mob.
  • Beneath a Steel Sky has Dr. Burke, a cosmetic surgeon who runs this trope into the ground. He operates on patients who are not anesthetized for no discernable reason, he huffs the gas himself, and turned his dead wife into a holographic receptionist. It doesn't help that you have to undergo surgery from him for a couple of alterations. (namely, your Schreibmann port to jack into LINC-Space, and to get someone else's fingerprints grafted to your hands to bypass a biometric lock)
  • 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.
  • Borderlands features Dr. Zed Blanco, 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. He does genuinely care about treating people, though mostly in his own insane way, and he can do a good job of it.
  • Chicken Police: Doctor Bubo. Started his career as a police doctor, but was fired after collecting too many severed limbs, and too much morphine went missing. Went into private practice, but lost his licence. Became this trope. He treats both criminals and police, because the police in Clawville don't always want their superiors to know that they were in trouble.
  • 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...
  • An apartment the player can break into in Deus Ex: Human Revolution shows an illegal augmentation clinic. The tenant is never shown, but the player can raid the place for goodies.
  • Deus Ex: Mankind Divided has Vaclav Koller, who handles Adam's augmentations and can remove the Power Limiters installed in him. As an Interpol agent Adam would presumably have access to better services, but the LIMB clinic in town is abandoned.
  • Toyed with in Dragon Age II with Anders. He's a very good healer, but his clinic is in the literal sewers and he has to hide out to avoid being dragged off by the Templars because he heals with magic. Doesn't stop a wide variety of people in Kirkwall from using his services, from the lowest and most destitute refugees to the Seneschal.
  • 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.
  • 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 [my scalpel] 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 as well.
      • 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 she still somehow manages to heal you just as well as any other doctor in the game. She is also the only doctor to provide a weapon for sale without you selling it to them first (a Laser Pistol).
    • The player can be one for Julius Caesar if they decide to do the quest "Et Tumor Brute?", performing brain surgery to remove a tumor. To succeed, you need to either have an extremely high Medicine stat so that you actually know how to do the surgery... or have an extremely high Luck stat and succeed by pure luck despite not knowing what the hell you're doing (you can even admit as much after the fact).
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Agent 47 gets treated by one of these in Hitman: 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...
  • 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...
  • 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.
  • Plot-important NPC Dhagon Ghent in Knights of the Old Republic II: The Sith Lords. 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."
  • Mass Effect:
    • In Mass Effect, 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.
    • In Mass Effect 2, one of the scientists you're trying to recruit turns out to currently live as a Back Alley Doctor on a Wretched Hive space station. He's actually a very good doctor, but his main area of expertise happens to be biological weapons. And he wasn't just working in labs but was also member of a covert opperations unit on one of the most hostile planets in known space that is home to the most feared warriors of the galaxy. And the local gangs are scared shitless by him.
    "He's not just a doctor. Doctors don't execute people and display the bodies as a warning."
    • Mass Effect: Andromeda has one on Kadara, operating out of the city slums. He was part of the Initiative, but left on moral principle. Turns out the exiles didn't care much for moral principles, so now he's operating out of a disused cargo container, anonymously backed by the Collective. Depending on the player's choices, he can join the Kadara colony and stop being a back-alley doctor.
  • While he's easily the best medical professional in the world of Guilty Gear thanks to his Reality Warper powers, it's noted quite a few times that Dr. Faust doesn't actually have a medical license. He used to have one back when he was known as Dr. Baldhead, but then he snapped and went on a homicidal rampage. He now hides his identity with a Brown Bag Mask and continues his work as a healer to make up for all of that.
  • Persona 5 straddles the line with Tae Takemi, your group's main supplier of medicine. Her small private clinic is in a rather sleazy side of town, and her patients are treated with her own brewed medication, putting her frequently under suspicion by the police. Plus, her choice of attire under her lab coat is an unprofessional short black dress and high heels rather than scrubs. Additionally, your Confidant with Tae involves her testing experimental medication on you. However, Tae is actually a medical genius with near-impeccable medical ethics who used to work for a prestigious university hospital. For instance, she actually tries to turn you away the first time you meet, assuming you were some junkie looking for your next fix; when that turns out not to be the case, the medicine she tests on you is already at the stage where it's safe to be tested on humans. In fact, the only reason she doesn't have her old job is because she was falsely blamed for a disastrous medical trial that she had actually advised against doing. You can help restore her reputation by completing her Confidant, but she'll decide that she can better help people by staying at her clinic anyways.
  • 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.
  • In The Secret World features a remarkably competent example of this trope in the form of Dr Anton Aldini, a disreputable plastic surgeon operating out of a derelict abattoir in Brooklyn. For added fun, he's voiced by Peter Stormare, the same man who gave us Dr Eddie of Minority Report. Along with the barbershop in London, Aldini is the players' means of altering their appearance, and despite being a raving lunatic working with substandard tools at best, he does his job with zero failures. However, it's implied that there is some kind of magic at work, particularly since the surgery is just a convenient method of funding Aldini's experiments in reanimating the dead.
  • 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.
    • But hey, at least he refunds you the credits you spent to see him! Only if you complain.
    • Or you can kill for no karma lost, making him the only non-hostile NPC you can kill with impunity.
  • 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.
  • A few of the medic companions in Star Wars: 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.
  • 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. Naturally, the Medic is also a Mad Doctor.
    • A combination of fanon and a willingness to commit drastic self-inflicted surgery in the name of installing cybernetics on himself sometimes turns the Engineer into one of these. He actually is a doctor, given he has 11 PhDs, but he usually handles machines, not people. That said, it might just be safer to ask him for help as opposed to the Medic.
  • Rakesh Chadana from Vampyr is a fairly benign example. Due to a clerical error, his regiment thought he was a surgeon. He flat out tells them he's not a doctor, but no one cares and they start sending him wounded anyway. His results were apparently within the average, and he decided to keep using the doctor title when he moved to England after the war. To his credit, in London he just operates the morgue, and has no interest in trying to practice medicine for real.
  • Yu Nanba, from Yakuza: Like a Dragon, was a practicing nurse until he got stripped of his license when he was caught running a side-hustle selling meds on the black market. He now lives on the streets as a hobo, and meets The Hero, Ichiban Kasuga, while treating him after he had been dumped in his town after being shot.
  • Mafia and Mafia II has the unnamed doctor and Andreas "El Greco" Karafantis offer their services to organised crime groups in their respective games. Unlike most of the examples in this page, they do seem to be quite competentnote , if not for the fact that they went underground to fill the void with gangsters and other criminals, whose criminal occupation made it inconvenient for them to pay a visit to the emergency room. El Greco's backstory was further fleshed out in the second game's Family Gallery, where it is explained that he was disgraced from his job at the American Embassy when he was found to have a scandalous affair with the Ambassador's wife. After saving the lifes of a number of gangsters during the Vinci-Moretti War, he has since dedicated his services full-time to the underworld. El Greco did however admonish Vito and Joe for their violent lifestyle in the chapter "Stairway to Heaven", sternly cautioning them about the (obvious) horrors of being in a criminal gang.
  • Cyberpunk 2077: Viktor Vektor, V's ripperdoc (a doctor for cyborgs, essentially) operates from a back-alley basement in the back of an esoterica shop. He zig-zags the trope due to being an actually trained medical professional with an excellent bedside manner. He could easily work in a more legitimate clinic, but that would involve signing up with the Arasaka corporation running Night City, and Viktor isn't about that.

  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Awkward Zombie: Dr. Mario, according to this strip.
  • In Boy Aurus, to acquiesce with Aurus' request for no hospital, Mint and Niccolo take him to a veterinarian.
  • 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."
  • 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.
  • The titular protagonist of Ingrid The Plague Doctor isn't actually a licensed doctor, having been kicked out of medical school for her overreliance on leeches.
  • 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.
  • Unnatural Selection: After developing mental problems due to brainwashing, Likol visits a back-alley therapist because sanctioned ones keep records, and his pursuers have eyes everywhere. According to said therapist, not keeping records is the only reason he's not sanctioned.
  • VG Cats: The late, great Dr. Hobo gave the impression of being one of these, although it was kinda hard to tell at times.
  • 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.

    Web Original 
  • Team Four Star's parody series Final Fantasy VII: Machinabridged includes Jessie, who mumbles and slurs all her dialogue. As they're breaking into the first reactor, Biggs says this:
    "Jessie, was the alley dentist really worth what you saved?"
  • In Impractical Magic there is fierce competition for healers in this Magic School to get practice time and become good enough to earn favor. As a result, when they are not spreading tripwires on high stairs or trying to startle cooks doing knife work, they will gather at Hotspur Ally (AKA Blood Ally) where people can come for cheap and less than licit medical treatment.
  • 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 has a degree of sorts (from the worryingly titled Hollywood Upstairs Medical College), Dr. Nick Riviera is otherwise the epitome of this trope. 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.
    • 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!"
  • 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.
      Zoidberg: Relax, Fry. I'll simply spin you in a high-speed centrifuge, separating out the denser fluid of His Highness.
      Fry: But won't that crush my bones?
      Zoidberg: Oh, right, right, with the bones! I always forget about the bones.
    • 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. He doesn't know what the human anatomy is called, and uses the books in his office as cheat-sheets. He also prescribed viagra as anti-depressants.
      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 "Paging 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. He eventually turns on his brother when Thorne tries to have Matthew's old college friend Leslie Thompkins killed after she (unwillingly) assisted Matthew in an operation to save Thorne's life, to keep her quiet.
    • Rupert Thorne finds he needs surgery after collapsing during one of his rants. The X ray reveals a tumor that will kill him if not removed. The surgeon begs him to go a real hospital but Rupert being an amoral crime boss insists that if it isn't done right then and there, it won't be done at all. The abovementioned surgeon agrees.
  • 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.
  • All Hail King Julien has Doctor S, Rob McTodd's personal plastic surgeon. He claims that he doesn't need a medical license to practice medicine out of a cave, and for some reason, ends up being hired as the kingdom's official doctor. He frequently makes misdiagnosis and his practices resemble a Mad Scientist more than a doctor.
    Doctor S: (Regarding a line of patients) Look at them Nurse Phantom, so many test subjects, and I don't even have to dig any of them up!
    Hector: I don't know why I'm here, I'm in perfect health.
    Doctor S: Not for long!

    Real Life 
  • The Darwin Awards told a story of someone who had a back-alley liposuction procedure performed by his friend in his garage with a vacuum cleaner. Since it's the Darwin Awards, you can guess the outcome. The only surprising thing is that the cause of death was an overdose of the drugs the "doctor" gave him instead of from having some untrained moron stick a vacuum cleaner into his insides.
  • 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.
    • And she's not the only one, either.
    • In general, there's always the advice to save up the money for cosmetic surgery, instead of cutting corners, as if the above stories aren't an indication, back-alley doctors are especially rife in the cosmetic surgeries field and it's even worse if one goes overseas to get said surgeries, as other countries have different regulations, so, what could be considered legit in one country would very well be back-alley in the US, if not sliding between the two.
  • In Kowloon Walled City in Hong Kong, there were quite a few dentists who may or may not have 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.
  • 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...
  • Dr. Kermit Gosnell, a former abortion doctor whose gross malpractice got him sentenced to life in prison without parole. The services he provided and conditions were very much like a typical back alley doctor, but in a "legitimate" institution. Note that Kermit Gosnell did have a legitimate license to practice. His employees, however...
  • Linda Hazzard, whose "medical license" was dubious at best no thanks to a loophole that grandfathered in alternative medicine practitioners without degrees, set up a sanitorium where she promoted fasting as a Panacea for all the body's ills. Not only that the regimen she gives to her victims patients sounds eerily similar to those suffered by concentration camp prisonersnote , she was also found to have forced them into signing their will, effectively swindling them to death. Hazzard was later convicted for her atrocities, but only served two years jail time and was even pardoned by Governor Ernest Lister. Ironically enough, even she herself was convinced by her own nonsense, eventually dying of starvation in 1938 after attempting a fasting cure on herself.
  • With the price of dental treatment being astronomically high, and with NHS dental charges shooting up to the point where even state-subsidised dental care is beyond the reach of many - to say nothing of the difficulty of finding a British dentist prepared to accept NHS patients - back-street dentistry is now a growing issue in Britain. note 


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