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Faking Another Person's Illness

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Filthy Rich: So, Granny was never sick?
Granny Smith: And there ain't no apple-blighted ponies?
Big Mac: Nope.
Applejack: Those were all lies.
My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic, "Where the Apple Lies".

Playing Sick is one thing, but some people may be too clever to fall for that. So how about if you pretend someone else is sick?

Maybe the liar is trying to avoid going somewhere or doing something by claiming that someone else is sick and that person needs their attention. Maybe, the liar is trying to prevent the ones being lied to from visiting the allegedly sick character and finding out a secret. Maybe the allegedly sick character is playing along and they're either helping this person pretend to be contagious or trying to gain important access to places or items that they claim will "cure" the allegedly sick one.

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Sometimes, the character who's apparently sick can be not present or even completely made-up and the liar can just leave without any intention of visiting them, but if they're made up and expected to be present, expect the character who invented them to use their imaginary illness to justify why they cannot let anyone see them.

If it's a real person and they're not playing along, expect the liar to hastily try and hide the allegedly sick person or make them look sick, sometimes shh'ing them or putting a hand over their mouth when they try to say, "I'm fine". Sometimes it's an animal or a baby and they can't talk, but they still look healthy, so expect the lying character to try and hide that.

Other times, a character has disappeared, is on a secret mission, has turned into something (like the opposite sex, an animal, or they've turned older or younger—sometimes way younger), or is otherwise not present for a reason other characters don't want to share, so they claim the character is sick when asked where that character is.

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Sometimes, the liar is helping another person pretend to be sick, (like if Alice pretends to be sick and Bob explains the "disease" she has), which is often used when the characters are trying to bail out of prison (possibly leading to The Guards Must Be Crazy) or enter a restricted area. This variation, and several other variations, might be used if the liar wants to steal medical equipment for whatever reasons. Sick Captive Scam explores those twists.

In a darker variant, it may also be that the liar is an Attention Whore who wants to gain some sympathy for their selfless devotion to their invalid ward, and might even be making them appear sick against their will. This twist might also be used by a Con Man who's trying to scam you with a Fake Charity; what could be a better sob story than all the poor sick little orphans who need your support?

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Compare Playing Sick and its subtrope You Don't Want to Catch This for pretending that you are sick, and Induced Hypochondria for lying to someone that they are sick. Invented Invalid is a subtrope (for when the person is definitely made up and the lie involves a visit.) Also compare Munchausen Syndrome, which rises to the level of mental illness.


Examples:

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    Fan Works 
  • In Clash's Revolt, Clash plans to sabotage the Holograms from the inside out. She pretends to be Raya's mother and says that something is wrong with her father, which forces Raya to run back home to check on her family. Clash then disguises herself as Raya and goes on tour with Jem and the Holograms.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Star Wars: A New Hope has C3PO Fake Another Robot's Malfunction by pretending another droid, R2D2, has short-circuited and they have to go to maintenance.
  • Marvel Cinematic Universe:
    • Thor: Ragnarok: Thor and Loki perform a routine to get past the guards that involves Thor carrying Loki, who's limp, and shouting, "Get help!" And then he chucks Loki at the guards to take them out.
    • Ant-Man and the Wasp: Cassie's cover story for her (currently) absent father when FBI Agent Woo comes to check in on him is that he has a stomach bug and has just finished vomiting all over the bathroom; the latter detail is what disturbs Woo enough to make him hesitate to continue.

    Literature 
  • In Be Careful What You Wish For, Ruth lies to her parents to avoid going out by saying that she is going to visit her friend Lou's "sick" grandfather.
  • In one of the Just books, Andy tries to get out of doing something by pretending his imaginary friend, a polite boy named Fred, is sick. His mother pretends Fred is real.
  • In The Midnight Gang, the main character Tom has to get sleeping serum to get the evil matron to fall asleep. He pretends that he's a doctor and the fired porter is his patient. What the porter allegedly has is undefined, but it renders him immobile, is a literal pain in the butt, and drives him insane into thinking he's a doctor.
  • In Lucky Jim, Jim gets Bill Atkinson to call at the Welches' to tell him that his parents are in the hospital. This is nonsense, but gives Jim an excuse to leave early.
  • Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Ron's father and brothers enchant a ghoul to look like him, and tell the ministry that he's deathly ill with Spattergroit, to cover up the fact that he dropped out of school to adventure with Harry Potter.
  • Eternity Road. In an After the End world, two of the protagonists are captured by a security robot that declares it is holding them until the police arrive, which needless to say will be a very long time. Realising the robot is programmed not to kill, a woman pretends to be a doctor who is taking the prisoners for medical treatment.
  • In Survivors, Lucky is told by his sister Bella to act as a spy for another pack. Lucky soon finds himself growing attached to his new packmates, but when he tries to go back to his old pack everyone tells him that he can't come back yet. His sister first tells him that Martha and Bruno are slow to heal from their infections and then later that everyone in the pack has a stomach illness, so he should probably wait until everyone is better. The next day Lucky's old pack ambushes his new one without his approval.

    Live-Action TV 
  • The Addams Family: Happens in "Cat Addams", when the Addamses think their pet lion is sick and try and make the vet brave enough to treat him, they falsely claim that Cleopatra (the plant), Thing (the hand in a box), Cousin Itt and Uncle Fester (the humans) are sick, have them play along, and have them pretend the vet cured them.
  • Animorphs: When Marco is incompletely demorphed from Osprey and people want to know what's wrong with him (being mostly covered with a sweater). Jake pretends he is his deformed brother Tommy and Marco pretends he has a disease called "beakonoma" which causes you to grow a beak and only affects the "smart and handsome". Jake transmits most of it to the crowd and they leave, shuddering as Marco finishes demorphing.
  • In episode "San Junipero" of Black Mirror, Kelly tries to lose Wes, who is stalking her, by telling him that her friend Yorkie (sitting next to her) is terminally ill. Later, it turns out that it's in virtual reality and Yorkie is in fact the avatar for a comatose old lady.
  • The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air: In the episode "Eyes on the Prize", Will tries to convince his friends Ty and Jazz that Carlton is ill, but when asked for the name of the illness, he can only come up with the unconvincing "Bette Davis Eyes".
  • Star Trek: The Original Series:
    • In "By Any Other Name", Spock uses his Vulcan abilities to pretend to be unconscious to help the protagonists escape from the Kelvans. Both Kirk and Dr. McCoy tell the Kelvan guard that Spock is sick and needs to be taken to the Enterprise for treatment.
    • In "I, Mudd", as part of a fake escape attempt, Dr. McCoy injects Harry Mudd with a drug that causes him to fall asleep. He then (along with Captain Kirk) tells the android guards that Mudd is sick and needs to be taken to the Enterprise sickbay.
  • In the Star Trek: Enterprise episode "Judgment", Archer is being held by the Klingons and is to be tried for a recent incident involving escaping "rebels". Phlox is able to visit Archer in prison by claiming that he needs to treat Archer's xenopolycythemia.
  • The Worst Witch: When Ethel tries to get Enid expelled by framing her for pranks, Mildred tries to help Enid and turns into a bat in the process. When asked where Mildred is, her classmates claim that she has a cold.
  • Blake's 7. As part of The Caper in "Gold", Dayna is supposed to fake her illness, but they had to give her a real drug after The Alcoholic doctor was replaced by someone more competent. She accidentally knocks the gun out of Avon's hand while begging him for the antidote.

    Theater 
  • In The Barber of Seville, Count Almaviva disguises himself as a substitute music teacher, "Don Alonso," and lies to Dr. Bartolo that he's come to teach Rosina in place of Don Basilio, who is sick. His cover is almost blown when Don Basilio unexpectedly shows up, but our heroes get rid of Basilio by pretending to think he's dangerously ill with scarlet fever and giving him "medicine," i.e. money to bribe him to leave.
  • In Matilda, the girls pretend Nigel is narcoleptic to get him out of trouble.

    Western Animation 
  • Arthur: In "D.W.'s Imaginary Friend", Arthur wants to go to the fair and his sister D.W. wants to come and bring her Imaginary Friend Nadine. Arthur doesn't want D.W. to bring Nadine out of fear they'll think he's babyish, so he tells her that he thinks Nadine has chicken pox and must stay behind. However, he admits to having lied when D.W. realises the Fridge Logic that if he can't see Nadine, how's he to know she's sick?
  • Foster's Home for Imaginary Friends: In the episode "Bus the Two of Us", Bloo takes the Fosters' bus on a joyride without Frankie knowing. When Will finds out about it from Mac, he, who usually doesn't like lying, lies to Frankie that Coco is sick and that she has to stay to take care of her.
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic:
    • In "Sweet and Elite", Rarity lies that Opalescence is sick to justify her staying in Canterlot instead of returning (really it was to go to a party). When her friends arrive to bring their initial party to Rarity, she drenches Opalescence in water to make her look sick.
    • In "Where the Apple Lies", it's revealed that the reason why Applejack Will Not Tell a Lie is because she lied in her adolescence that Granny Smith was sick to avoid Filthy Rich and Spoiled Milk from finding out that she didn't really make a deal with Granny and also falsely told Granny that the apple blight was starting to infect ponies.
  • Rugrats: In "All's Well That Pretends Well", Angelica lies to the adults that the babies are sick and tries to make them look sick by making them shiver with ice cream, painting spots on Phil and Lil to make it look like they have the chicken pox, and trying unsuccessfully to make them sneeze.
  • Thomas the Tank Engine has Gordon lie to Thomas that James is sick as part of a plan convincing James to play sick.

    Real Life 
  • Factitious Disorder Imposed on Another (FDIA), also known as Munchausen Syndrome By Proxy, is a mental disorder that causes caretakers to make their dependents seem mentally or physically ill, sometimes even by inducing symptoms or directly injuring them, as a way to get attention or sympathy. In many cases the victims, often young children, wind up actually ill or even dead from the abuse.
  • This can also occur in Munchausen By Internet, a related syndrome in which people will post about made-up illnesses in online support communities, either for attention seeking or just to troll. This is made all the easier because of how simple it is to fake an anonymous identity, and eliminates the need to fake anyone's physical symptoms.

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