Follow TV Tropes


Harmful Healing

Go To

"If this is the cure, I'd hate to see the disease."
Flavor Text for card "Maggot Therapy", Magic: The Gathering

Meet the doctor. They may be the greatest, most talented surgeon in the world, or have a miracle drug that can cure any illness, or even a horde of tiny robots designed to heal with precision a scalpel can't even touch. They can patch up your wounds, treat your injuries, rescue you from the brink of death... and make you wish you were never born.


It's entirely possible to be great at your job and yet have absolutely no idea what you're doing. This trope is one of the nastier consequences.

Harmful Healing is what happens when a purported "cure" ends up causing more harm than good, either by accident or design, and often with horrifying results. Best-case scenario, the victim ends up Cursed With Awesome due to the botched healing process inadvertently enhancing their body (albeit with a bevy of unattractive, if not outright deleterious, side effects); worst-case scenario, the victim suffers a Fate Worse than Death. When unintentional, can be thought of as the medical equivalent to Nice Job Breaking It, Hero!. When the "cure" is infectious, it's an accidental Synthetic Plague. Compare Came Back Wrong. Also compare Comically Inept Healing, where the harm is caused by the would-be helper's stupidity rather than the "cure" itself. Contrast Beneficial Disease.



    open/close all folders 

    Anime & Manga 
  • Franken Fran will keep her patient alive by any means possible. Quality of life, however, is beyond her comprehension. Needless to say, many of Fran's patients usually wind up in some truly horrific bodily state by the time she's done with them.
  • In Blassreiter Gerd accepts a "secret experimental wonder pill" from a stranger, reasonably guessing that whatever it is, things aren't going to be any worse for a half-paralyzed racing champion ditched by his girlfriend. Turns out that it was not quite a correct assumption, even though he got to ride a bike again.
  • In The Garden of Sinners Araya Souren repairs Fujino's cracked vertebrae and restores her sense of feeling. Yes, this is an evil act. Araya knows good and well why, and a lot of people wind up dead.
  • Naruto:
    • Tsunade developed a form of this as her emergency backup, the Creation Rebirth Seal. While it instantly heals all her wounds, the downside is that the healing is based on rapid cell division. Due to the Hayflick limit, this means that each use shortens her lifespan and ages her body.
    • Naruto himself faces a variant of this. When he draws on the Kyuubi's tainted chakra it damages his body. At the same time, his Healing Factor prevents this from becoming critical, but the rapid healing works to shorten his lifespan like with Tsunade.
  • Doctor Reynold's medicine in Superior is supposed to hurt when it heals. The guy is a self-proclaimed sadist.
  • JoJo's Bizarre Adventure:
    • In Part 4, when Josuke gets angry, his Stand's ability to heal/repair objects goes a bit out of his control. Ask the guy whose nose was basically turned into a pig snout. Done deliberately against the user of Highway Star; the guy was already injured and tried to pull a "Don't Kick Them While They're Down" defense... so Josuke healed him back to perfect health and then threw him out the window.
    • Pearl Jam's powers give food this effect. Any food or beverage affected by it will be especially delicious and restorative, but also detoxes the affected by forcefully expelling things such as rotted teeth and even intestines, though afterwards you'll feel better than before.
  • Miranda Lotto's Innocence in D.Gray-Man functions something like this. She doesn't so much heal injuries as temporarily take them away, and once her Innocence is deactivated they all come flooding back at once (which has, on one occasion, led to characters taking fatal injuries and fighting on, only to have to face their death at the end of the fight anyway.)
  • Members of the Eye of Michael in the Trigun manga are able to use special vials to regenerate injuries, but these also cause rapid aging. This is the reason why Wolfwood appears to be in his thirties despite only being in his late-teens, and ultimately he ends up overdosing to defeat Livio and Razlo, and dying.
  • Oboro from Psyren uses his healing ability to inflict Body Horror on his enemies as readily as he heals his allies.
  • The Yakuza leader Overhaul in My Hero Academia has a Quirk that lets him break apart things at a molecular level and reassemble them however he wishes. He can use this on people, rebuilding them and thus healing wounds and curing injuries. The victim does, however, have to experience the agonizing pain of being torn apart and put back together.

    Comic Books 
  • The Flash: Impulse's accelerated healing caused him problems when he was shot in the kneecap by Deathstroke— the flesh quickly regrew over the bullet, requiring intensive and painful surgery.
  • Healing in ElfQuest relies not on regenerating flesh so much as on reshaping it—a bit like Vicissitude. The Big Bad happens to be the most powerful healer alive. Draw your own conclusions.
  • When The Savage Dragon's bones are prevented from setting, they simply heal in whatever position they're already in, so having all his bones broken and being stuffed into a smokestack leaves his body horribly malformed, requiring that he have his bones broken again so they can be set properly.
  • In the Transformers series put out by Marvel Comics, a substance called "Nucleon" was developed on a robotic planet to serve as a miracle cure, but the patients who were treated with it went insane and murdered their doctors. Grimlock tries to access Nucleon in order to revive his deactivated Dinobot comrades and battles through a series of robotic zombies. Once at the island where the Nucleon is stored, he learns that the patients were not hoarding the substance, but protecting others from it. Nucleon revitalizes mechanoids but has horrible side effects; in one instance, a patient was brought back to life along with the malfunction that killed him, and must now suffer through yet another slow, painful death. Grimlock tests Nucleon on himself and it results in paralysis, followed by the loss of his transforming ability. He has to literally shed his old body and get a vastly superior and improved form of his humanoid self, though without any transforming ability.
  • In the Superman: Savage Dawn storyline, the Man of Steel learns that Kryptonite can burn away the changes done to his cells by killing the altered cells, granting him brand new powers in the process. However, the Kryptonite is also killing his healthy cells in the process. Superman, being Superman, is quite fine with it... though it would later become an important factor in his eventual death.

    Fan Works 
  • With This Ring: Paul is able to heal many of the Colombians' injuries with his power ring, but for a few of them, something about the Sheeda's magic causes them to get worse when he tries, so he has to leave them for a magic user to fix.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • District 9 has the prawn fluid. Word of God states that it's a nanite solution that the prawns use as a general biological and mechanical fixit. It gets on a human, starts trying to heal a cut on his hand and it all goes south. Apparently it decided that being human was a repairable condition.
  • I Am Legend reveals that the cause of the virus that killed most of humanity and turned the rest into Darkseekers was a cure for cancer involving a modified measles virus.

  • Anne McCaffrey's Acorna books: Healing effects that mend broken bones may cause the bones to knit together and regrow before the fracture has been properly set, leading to pain and deformity. This happened to a character.
  • The Sundering presents a character who'd previously been healed this way, and, as a combined preparation for war and punishment for disobeying his master, has the bones of his right arm magically restored to normal so he can wield a sword. Unfortunately for him, the original breaks must all be recreated before the damage can be repaired.
  • Magicians in The Black Magician Trilogy 'verse heal their wounds automatically when unconscious. As above, this can lead to bones healing in warped and deformed ways, which requires re-breaking and resetting by a properly trained healer.
  • In Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, Gilderoy Lockhart fixes Harry's broken wrist... by making the bones vanish entirely. Of course, this being the wizarding world, there's a cure for that too. (Maybe this is a common side-effect of botching a bone-mending spell?) It's called "Skele-Gro". Unfortunately, Skele-Gro regrows bones gradually, so the patient will have to endure a night or two of bone splinters forcing their way through muscle, blood and nerves, since, for reasons unknown, even competent doctors don't use anesthesia for that process.
  • Healing in The Wheel of Time normally causes mild discomfort approximately equivalent to being dunked briefly in ice water. Sometimes, when the ailment that is being Healed is too strong, it can give the subject seizures. And when Semirhage is Healing you, she always makes it very painful so as to remind you not to get injured again. Because Healing (at least of the type taught to Aes Sedai) draws on the energy in the patient's body to do its work, if the person is very weak (for instance, from blood loss) it can actually be fatal to Heal them.
  • In Robin Hobb's Liveship Traders and Fool trilogies, the Skill can be used to accelerate healing or fix otherwise irreparable injuries, but it badly taxes the patient's body and drains their energy reserves.
  • The titular substance of the Coldfire Trilogy can be used to heal, but the process isn't pleasant.
  • In the Iron Druid Chronicles this is the reason why druids only practice healing magic on themselves. Healing magic can easily harm the subject before making him/her better and if you use druid magic to directly harm a living, sentient being the magic will kill you instantly. Only the druid's own body is an exception to the rule so druids have Super Healing for themselves but cannot even try to heal even the simplest cut on someone else without risking death.
  • In Eclipse, when Jacob's ribs get broken, his Healing Factor causes them to heal before they're properly set, and the doctor has to re-break them.
  • In the Newsflesh universe, two well-meaning scientists engineered viruses, one to cure the common cold, the other to cure cancer. Both did what they were intended to do. The problem is that when "Kellis flu" met "Marburg Amberlee", the result was a Zombie Apocalypse. Pesky side-effect.
  • In Maskerade, Granny Weatherwax does this to some injured thugs, involving old sewing supplies that were not intended for stitching people. She may have to heal people she doesn't like, but she doesn't have to make it pretty.
  • Artemis Fowl:
    • In The Eternity Code, Butler gets shot through his bulletproof vest. Holly dumps all of her magic into him to save him, and while it works, it has two nasty side effects. First, her magic wasn't enough to fully heal him, so some of Butler's lifespan was used to complete the spell, aging him about fifteen years. Second, some of the vest's Kevlar fibers got caught, replicated by the magic, and irreversibly intertwined with his flesh; it's only a small patch, but it's enough to slow down his breathing without providing any actual bulletproofing.
    • In The Arctic Incident, the narration mentions that if a fairy passes out in the middle of magically healing themselves, things can go badly wrong. Holly specifically remembers a comrade who woke up with his knee pointing backwards.
  • Charlie and the Chocolate Factory: Visitors to the Wonka Factory who don't pay attention to The "Be Careful!" Speech might wind up undergoing this.
    • Violet Beauregarde is changed from a blueberry back into a human by having the juice squeezed out of her, though she remains permanently blue-skinned and haired. In the 2005 film adaptation, she also ends up with Rubber Man abilities as a side effect, which to her credit she regards as more than making up for her new complexion. In the 2013 stage musical, she explodes offstage as a result of the transformation, but the others are informed by Mr. Wonka that — provided she hasn't started to ferment — she can be restored to normal. "Well, maybe not normal, but you know, near enough."
    • Mike Teavee, upon being shrunk to an inch high, is put on a machine that tests chewing gum stretchiness to restore his height (according to Mr. Wonka, boys his age "stretch like mad"), and given Supervitamin Candy to fatten him up. But not only is a side effect of the candy his toes growing out to the same length as fingers, in a crossover with Comically Inept Healing he also gets overstretched and winds up 10 feet tall! It gets worse in the 2005 film — the candy is left out so he's now an example of Paper People!
    • In the novel's sequel Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator, administering a huge overdose of the Rapid Aging drug Vita-Wonk to Grandma Georgina's -2 year old form (long story) results in her being aged to well over 300 years old. The good news is that the heroes manage to return her to her original age after that, with none of the side effects the bratty kids received.
  • Charles Jacobs in Stephen King's Revival uses his experiments in electricity to cure people of various ailments. It soon becomes apparent that there are dangerous side effects.
  • In the Towers Trilogy, one of the side-effects of Xhea being an Un-Sorcerer is that healing magic causes her agonizing pain. On one occasion, she's taken to a hospital and a well-intentioned doctor gives her a magic IV, which nearly kills her. Later, an attempt to heal an injury to her knee using magic causes permanent damage and renders her incapable of walking without a crutch.
  • Background information in the world of Tolkien's Legendarium implies that Orc medicine is actually really good, but incredibly painful. This accounts for the numerous instances of Orcs surviving things like severed limbs and split skulls in a world that is otherwise stuck in Medieval Stasis. In The Two Towers, Merry and Pippin are given Orc draughts that let them keep pace with their captors and ignore the pain from being knocked out and wounded earlier, but leaves Merry with a permanent scar on his forehead.

    Live-Action TV 
  • In a distant Seven Days Alternate Future, a good Girl of the Week doctor's present-day invention of the cure for cancer wipes out all humanity.
  • Shawn from The 4400 has healing powers that can be turned to the opposite side. Mostly he has control over them, but in one episode, he's being affected by a plague and tries to cure Maya's scraped knee, almost killing her. Since he's a good guy and only ever has used that part of his powers accidentally (the time with Maya and once when he was new to his abilities), no one actually dies from this until in the finale, when he has to kill his brother Danny.
  • Doctor Who:
    • It's very common for a character to try to apply a simple treatment to a species it's not designed for. Taken to extremes with the Third Doctor's first appearance, where a surgeon wants to amputate his second heart, although in that instance the Doctor simply waits until he is alone, harrumphs and walks out.
    • In the Seventh Doctor's last appearance a nurse tries to perform exploratory surgery because of his "abnormal" heartbeat and winds up "killing" him. Worse, the anesthesia he was under at the time made the regeneration less than smooth.
    • "The Empty Child"/"The Doctor Dances": Tiny nanobots get loose on Earth and start "healing" everyone they encounter. Since they're alien in origin (and don't recognize humans), they take the first human they find as the default blueprint — it's a dead young boy with a gas-mask on! They start mutating everyone they can find into zombiefied gas-mask creatures, because they think everyone who doesn't look like that is "sick".
    • "The End of Time": The Master hijacks a medical device designed to cure entire planets at once by applying a set template. He alters the device so that it applies a particularly specific template to the entire Earth: his own body.
    • "The Girl Who Waited": Amy ends up stranded in a quarantine zone on a planet in the middle of a plague outbreak: the plague is harmless to humans, but the cure is lethal to them. (The plague is also lethal to the Doctor, so he can do little but wait in the TARDIS and serve as Mission Control.)
  • Because of their Healing Factor, both Sylar and Claire on Heroes have had their regrown flesh lodge foreign objects inside.
  • Happens Once per Episode on House, or very nearly. Usually because the doctors administered a treatment for an early diagnosis, which triggers symptoms that make it turn out to be wrong.
  • Kamen Rider Drive: One of Drive's Shift Car helpers is the aptly-named Mad Doctor, whose treatments can themselves hurt as much as death; Shinnosuke found this out the hard way the first time Doctor was used, to save him from a deadly neurotoxin.
  • The Nanobots in The Outer Limits episode "The New Breed" cure a man's inoperable cancer, return him to his physical prime, and give him a Healing Factor, but further testing prompts them to take a proactive approach and start adding various disfiguring mutations in order to pre-emptively protect him from any harm. These include eyes on the back of his head, gills, and an external ribcage that shocks anyone who touches it.
  • In Seinfeld, Kramer cures Elaine's back with some chiropractics, only for it to get worse the next day.
  • Stargate Atlantis: In "McKay and Mrs. Miller", Rodney McKay and his sister Jeannie are kidnapped by a wealthy industrialist to modify experimental nanoprobes so that they can cure his young daughter's cancer. The McKays reluctantly agree (not that they have much choice) and it seems to work successfully, until it turns out that the probes are far too aggressive and tried to fix a minor heart defect by killing and reviving the girl... after several minutes of oxygen deprivation to her brain, rendering her a perfectly healthy vegetable.
  • On an episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation, a treatment for a minor illness ends up turning the entire crew into primates, except for those who were conveniently away.


    Tabletop Games 
  • Warhammer 40,000:
    • Ork Doktors (otherwise known as "Painboys" or just "Mad Doks") have a delightful tendency to "eksperiment on da subjekts" when they are given their "anastetiks" (i.e. knocked out with a hammer), to the point that orks (being naturally rugged to the point of surviving decapitation for a little while) will use the dok only as a last resort. To quote the book: "An unfortunate ork who goes to the Dok to have his toothache fixed might wake up with a set of lungs that allows him to breathe water instead!!"
    • This is also how healing magic works for the forces of Chaos. Healing comes from Nurgle, the God of Plagues. It isn't so much "healing" as cancerous growths filling up the space left by the wound.
  • The Lazarus Health Center in the GURPS Illuminati University setting approaches their job not unlike Ork Doks. It's usually easier to just die and get resurrected.
  • Magic: The Gathering: Liliana Vess, a cleric desperate to cure her brother Josu, uses forbidden dark magic...and inadvertently turns Josu into an undead abomination, a move so traumatic that it activates Liliana's Planeswalker spark.

    Video Games 
  • Alluded to by the doctor's lines in Assassin's Creed II.
    • "I've concocted a tincture of lead and pomegranate! Ideal for the liver!" "A weekly bleeding is part of a balanced and healthy lifestyle!" "I've fresh caught leeches today!" An altogether likely Truth in Television for the setting's time-period.
  • Reflected in the mechanics of the first three Avernum games — attempting to apply first aid with no knowledge of the skill usually does damage, often killing the unfortunate victim.
  • Used in BioShock— one audio diary mentions that when experimenting with Little Sisters, often a broken bone had to be broken and reset as many as dozens of times before the doctors got it right. The Blessed with Suck part is that Little Sisters can still feel pain.
  • In his story in BlazBlue: Continuum Shift, Sissy Villain Protagonist Jin Kisaragi is wounded courtesy of his encounter with Ragna from the first game. He's so badly hurt he can barely walk properly, nevermind fight (which he continues to do quite effectively anyway) and receives a temporary healing treatment of this type from Rachel, so he can go on and fight Hazama. Apparently, it's a last resort and not even the legendary hero Jubei would've been able to handle it, but naturally, being the Determinator he is, Jin manages it.
  • Starting with The Reaper's Due DLC, rulers in Crusader Kings II can retain a Court Physician to treat their illness when they get sick, with three choices of treatment: risky but highly effective, well-tested with a moderate chance of adverse side effects, and mild symptomatic treatment with almost no chance to cause further harm to the patient. Generally it's best to reserve the risky experimental treatments for ailments like cancer, rabies, leprosy, or the Black Death that are likely fatal and won't go away on their own—because the "treatment" in serious cases involves amputation of limbs, or the removal of... other organs. It's almost never worth it for a Frontline General warrior-king to lose his hand (and all his dueling prowess) to cure a case of the flu, and God help your family if you become a eunuch before siring an heir.
  • The Imperium Amper from Dark Reign is a ranged healing unit that fires a dart that heals infantry to full health, but poisons them, slowly reducing their health over time until they die. It can be used against enemy infantry too...
  • The Occultist in Darkest Dungeon has a healing skill, called Wyrd Regeneration, that heals a random amount and has a chance of inflicting Bleed. Depending on how much the Random Number God hates you, this can result in a character getting healed for 1 point of damage and then immediately losing it on their next turn and then some later on, or alternatively, getting healed for about 10 HP and resisting the Bleed condition entirely. If the RNG is merciful, you can even get a 40-point critical heal, which will bring anyone back from the brink no problem. Worst possibility is, the action heals for 0 and makes the targeted hero on Death's Door bleed, killing them on the next turn.
  • The description for the Imperial Guard General's healing ability in Dawn of War II: Retribution states that it doesn't so much heal the recipient as filling him with a sense of well-being. It is also explicitly stated to have long-term side effects, but very few guardsmen live long enough to experience them.
  • Disgaea:
    • Starting with Disgaea 3: Absence of Justice, the Healer class takes advantage of this trope with a skill that deliberately heals so excessively it harms the patient instead as an attack.
    • In Makai Kingdom, The Syringe can heal the target for free with its basic attack, but the more advanced attacks all cause harm (and replenishes the user's health by an equal amount - it essentially drains away life). Furthermore, it uses the RES stat (which Healers and Medics tend to focus on) to determine its effectiveness, so it can become a very powerful weapon for a class that usually hangs back in the rear.
  • In Elona, you can kill the world's pantheon if you so choose if you prepared to fight their second form. Among the gods, there's Jure of Healing - which as can be seen from the name, is the goddess of healing. Killing Jure will cause her next form named Blessed Jure to sprout out of her corpse, and Blessed Jure has an offensive skill named Excessive Heal. The text message of skill being used says "Excessive heal breaks tissue of target!" and it gives the target hemorrhage status debuff.
  • Fallout:
    • Super stimpaks from the series cause damage after healing and can be used as a potential assassination tool.
    • A lot of Fallout's healing food items also come with side effects like radiation.
  • Grief Syndrome: Regenerating health consumes a character's Soul Limit. In most cases, this is either a moot point (you get KO'd in one shot and so need to have a new body generated anyway) or not a particularly worrisome issue (your characters start each stage with five-digit numbers of Soul Limit and so a non-KO hit eats only a small percentage of that total — this is especially true on earlier laps). It comes around, though, if you're low on Soul Limit and get hurt non-lethally. Health automatically regenerates and eats Soul Limit, and so as soon as Soul Limit reaches zero, you die. Players would rather forego the healing and conserve Soul Limit (it normally depletes at about one per second) for the boss fight.
  • The novella that serves as a sequel to Infinity Blade says that the healing magic used in the game has a nasty side effect: in addition to healing wounds, it ages your body by the length of time it would have taken the wounds to heal naturally. In other words, each time you heal yourself, you're shortening your life span by a few months. Of course, since the main character is a Deathless, this is not a big deal for him.
  • Urgot in League of Legends was a warrior brought back from death to exact vengeance on the one who killed him. As a spider-crab cyborg. As he tells you in champion select: "Eternal life... endless torture..."
  • Sojiro Sagara in Lost Dimension has a skill that weaponizes his role as The Medic. It lets him heal enemies past their maximum HP, which causes damage.
  • Source info for Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor states that Uruk medicine is actually really good, but incredibly painful. This accounts for the Death Is Cheap factor for Uruk Captains. Off with His Head! is the only assurance that they won't be revived (and in Shadow of War even that's no guarantee). Uruks can even survive headshots with a bow (returning with a metal plate grafted to their heads) and being set on fire (returning covered in bandages).
  • Demons in Nexus Clash have their basic healing item in the Stygian Bone Leech, a vicious demonic symbiote that gnaws its way into exposed flesh, sanitizing wounds, repairing bones and muscles, and eating infected tissue as it goes. Here is a picture of one. Sweet dreams! Despite being hideous and painful, it does actually heal its 'patients', curing poisons and performing other medical miracles as it eats you. Angels get more benign Healing Herbs instead.
  • In One Step From Eden, the Booster Shot spell fires a pair of syringes - the first shot heals the target for 100 HP, and the second applies a slightly harsher Poison effect that deals 120 HP of Damage Over Time.
  • Pathologic has multiple different health stats, and many items that increase one will decrease another. Lemons, for instance, will reduce your exhaustion and boost your immune system, but make you hungrier. Painkillers will restore some health, but greatly increase exhaustion. Children's powder is one of the very few ways to reduce your infection level, but it reduces your health to critical levels. And so on...
  • Space Station 13:
    • Most medicines can be overdosed, which is bad when the medical staff is clueless about their job. At best it will cancel out the healing effect, at worst it will cause further harm and possibly other nasty consequences such as addiction. Add in the fact that different drugs can react inside the patient's body, resulting in a nice case of Gone Horribly Wrong.
    • Due to the chemical composition of their body, Slime People are healed by poisons and harmed by antidotes. And incompetent medical staff may be inclined to administer them even more medicine seeing their patient is not getting better.
    • And god help you if your doctor is a traitor in disguise, with an objective of assassinating you - their "medicines" get the job done quickly and silently, without you knowing what they are or what do they do, or that they are here at all.
  • Team Fortress 2: Heavily implied to be happening with The Medic's healing beam. Healing IS the side effect of his treatment.
  • In WildStar, Dr. Victor Lazarin created an immortality serum and gave it to his entire race, the Mordesh. Unfortunately, it turned out to cause their flesh to rot while still alive and their minds to deteriorate similarly. He did manage to come up with a treatment for the insanity though.
  • According to lore in World of Warcraft, healing an undead with the power of the Holy Light is incredibly painful, like having your entire body cauterized as a downplayed version of Revive Kills Zombie. This never comes up when playing as an undead Forsaken.
  • Late in Xenoblade Chronicles 2, Rex and Nia are locked in a stalemate against a powerful opponent, to which Rex's mortal exhaustion means that it will eventually break one way or another. While Nia's restorative powers are able to counter Malos' destructive field, the two are deadlocked in terms of power output, so Nia and Rex pull a gambit which weaponizes this trope; the ether-infused particles the combined attack injects into Malos cause his physical body to overheal in a manner similar to cancer, causing it to proverbially blow up on him. Granted, he's an Aegis and can repair his damage more rapidly than a normal Blade once it's run its course, it does cause him enough agony to break the stalemate and let Rex and Nia move on.

    Visual Novels 
  • In Saya no Uta, Fuminori Sakisaka is introduced as the unfortunate victim of a rare form of agnosia that was inadvertently caused by the brain surgery that saved his life after a horrific car crash. The agnosia distorts his perception monstrously, causing him to see, smell, taste, feel, and hear the world and people around him in a nightmarish and grotesque way. In fact, only one person appears normal to him as a result of his surgery: a mysterious girl known as Saya who is actually an Eldritch Abomination.
  • In Fate/stay night, the interaction of Shirou's Reality Marble and Avalon allows his body to rapidly heal by replacing damaged tissue with blades. One bad end involves this going out of control, resulting in blades erupting from his chest and shredding his internal organs. During Heaven's Feel Archer's Reality Marble begins to intrude into his body, causing it to break down. His own Reality Marble generates blades to counter the damage, which then pierce his remaining flesh and cut him apart even more.
    • Kiritsugu's special Anti-Magic bullets in Fate/Zero also use this trope. They work by damaging the target's magic circuits, then ineptly healing them. The damage can then never be reversed, because it already "has been".

    Web Comics 
  • In the cast pages for Adventurers!!, it's mentioned that Karashi has a ninja healing technique which works by cutting off bits of the people to be healed. This is probably why Tesla refused to acknowledge her offer of "ninja healing" late in the comic.
  • Girl Genius: Most attempts at Spark medicine follow this. One section follows the long story of Agatha curing another Spark of a disease. In the process she infects two other people, one of them being herself, everyone involved is electrocuted two or three times, all three of them have a rolling death lasting several minutes, and Agatha comes within forty-five seconds of exploding or melting. It works, but bear in mind that the three people involved are all very good Sparks, and fairly disciplined as they go.
  • Recent developments in Homestuck possibly show this due to Terezi being talked into having Aranea heal her eyes, when her blindness is a major part of her persona and isn't even a handicap to her due to being able to see in other ways. She says she considered it a big mistake the instant her vision was healed.
  • Stand Still, Stay Silent: This seems to be a big problem with potential cures for the Rash, judging from what is seen of Siv's old job at an institute that has been working at it for 50 years without success. And then there is the cure discovered in Year 0, that works perfectly well on the physical symptoms, but has the unexplained side effect of slow brain death. The picture is completed by hostile ghosts visible only to mages, which tend to be present in every old Rash hospital that had access to the cure in question.

    Web Original 
  • SCP Foundation:
    • An amulet with healing properties (SCP-427) that, if used improperly, will continue to "heal" the target even after bringing them up to perfect health. They eventually mutate into a nigh invincible mass of flesh with beyond human intelligence and a desire to make other people become like them.
    • There's also a fixing robot (SCP-212) that likes to rejuvenate your organs and makes other alterations based on its own unknown criteria. It's about as likely to make you able to breathe under water as just killing you. Employees are allowed to volunteer for treatment by it, obviously at their own risk.
    • There's also SCP-135, a girl with an aura that makes her and any other organic matter within a 10 cm radius immortal while causing rapid and uncontrolled cell growth — a.k.a. cancer — within 2.25 m. Having developed this aura in utero, she is stuck in a fetal position and permanently encrusted in a constantly growing mass of plant, fungus, and microorganisms. The most that can be done for her is to have robots cut off some of the excess matter when it gets too big. She has full brain activity.
    • To some extent, SCP-049 could be thought of as this. An entity resembling a bird-masked doctor from the time of the Black Plague, SCP-049 can apparently sense some form of "disease" in randomly determined human subjects. His "patients" are forced to undergo a fatal surgery once he's picked them out. Trouble is, they consistently reanimate after surgery, attempting to violently [DATA EXPUNGED] any un-surgerified humans they find.

    Real Life 
  • Heroin was invented by Bayer Pharmaceuticals ("Heroin" was originally a Bayer trademarked name for the chemical diacetylmorphine) and marketed as a cough suppresant and a cure for morphine addiction. From a Certain Point of View, it worked—heroin actually is a good cough suppressant, and people who took it were no longer addicted to morphine.
  • Fibrodysplasia ossificans progressiva or FOP, a disease that causes the body's self-repair system to replace damaged soft tissue with bone. It has the potential to eventually lead to And I Must Scream when the afflicted individual's limbs become too rigid to move.
  • Even when done correctly, life saving techniques such as CPR and the Heimlich can injure or break your ribs, leading to several weeks of it being painful to breathe. This is still generally considered preferable to not being able to breathe at all.
  • Rarely, medication can give you Stevens-Johnson Syndrome (SJS), or worse, TEN. Both diseases happen from the immune system abnormally reacting to medication, drugs, or infection. Something as simple as taking ibuprofen for a fever can cause you to get both.
  • Some antipsychotics can cause horrible physical symptoms like skin chapping in often-used places, constant shaking and suicidal urges.
  • Treatment for burns can be excruciatingly painful, especially when you get up to second-degree. Debridement and Escharotomy are common treatments, and are, respectively, to scrape the burned tissue of the skin and to slice the skin open in long incisions. They are as horrifyingly painful as they sound.
    • Debridement in particular is often necessary, because burned skin is dead skin, and if it isn't promptly removed, it'll get infected and possibly contract gangrene (your skin literally starts to rot).
  • Melarsoprol, the treatment for sleeping sickness, is a toxic derivative of arsenic which can cause poisoning and has horrible and very likely side effects. Its nickname, "Arsenic in Antifreeze", is actually the basic recipe for the drug; two lethal poisons combined to make something used medically (though not the only one). If you try to inject it with standard syringes they'll melt in your hand, as the nasty fluid is corrosive - it needs glass apparatus to be handled properly. Oh, and it's fatal all by itself in around 8% of cases. And if that's not enough, injections with it are so painful that it's been compared to mainlining molten metal. However, since "Sleeping Sickness" unless treated always leads to permanent brain damage, coma, and death, the Godzilla Threshold dictates Melarsoprol is worth a try.
  • Cancer often comes about when cells try to repair damage done... and get damaged themselves.
    • The treatment for cancer often winds up being this as well, since chemotherapy is designed to kill cells that divide rapidly (like cancer cells) but unfortunately takes out many beneficial cells in the process, perhaps most well known being hair cells, which often begin to fall out, and extreme nausea and fatigue. You can also have someone who is getting chemotherapy for cancer but winds up with a deadly infection that their body would normally be able to fight off.
  • Treatments for serious conditions often seem designed to replace them with something less debilitating. This is especially true for mental illnesses whose symptoms are partially subjective to the point where there is often conflict over designating them as illnesses in the first place.
  • Ever had a wart frozen off with liquid nitrogen? Yeeoooowwww.
    • The technical term for this treatment is cryo-ablation and in layman's terms, it means intentionally causing frostbite of the offending growth to induce blistering of frostbitten tissue that will (if done correctly) detach the wart from the rest of the skin, allowing it to be shed, so the patient can be rid of it.
  • Before modern suturing techniques were developed, the prevailing method of closing a major wound was cauterization, meaning the doctors literally burnt the wound shut.
    • Nowadays, blood vessels that are too small to be stitched are cauterized with an electrically charged instrument.
    • And in some cases, when a patient suffers frequently recurring nosebleeds, treatment is to chemically cauterize the sinuses.
  • Using alcohol as a disinfectant on wounds. It lowers the heat tolerance threshold in the inflamed tissue to the point that your own body temperature sets off the pain receptors and makes your brain think you've been burned in that area.
  • This kind of thing can happen with punctures, if the offending object manages to get deep enough into a fleshy part of the body; sometimes it's better to just leave it in there than to damage all the tissue it would take to dig it out.
  • The infamous Thalidomide was marketed as a treatment for anxiety, insomnia, and nausea, and was briefly used as a morning sickness suppressant. It worked very well. It just also led to nightmarish birth defects in many of the children born to women using it. Turns out it interferes with the formation of new blood vessels, resulting in abnormal fetal development. In a subversion, this horrible side effect actually makes the drug very useful in treating certain types of cancer, and despite its unfortunate history, it's still used today as a first-line treatment for multiple myeloma, with strict monitoring to prevent pregnant women from using it of course.
  • For those who have problems with blood clots, a common preventive measure is to take warfarin. It thins the blood and breaks up clots before they become a problem. The other common name of the drug is rat poison. In fact, blood tests must be taken regularly because it's a very fine balance between having too much in your system or not having enough. The former is dangerous for obvious reasons and the latter will give you the drawbacks without the benefits. Plus, no matter how you slice it, having thinner blood will cause you to bleed more when you are hurt and it will take longer for your body to stop the bleeding. This is why the medical community is trying to develop viable supplements that help warfarin users. Also for obvious reasons, warfarin users aren't allowed to donate blood.
  • Immunosuppressive drugs. As their name implies, they suppress the immune system, making it harder for the body to fight intruders. However, they are vital for transplant recipients, as otherwise the immune system attacks and eventually kills the transplanted organ.
  • Many historical treatments, such as bloodletting, leeches, and shock therapy, did little to nothing to actually help the patient's issue, while causing all kinds of harm to the body. They are still used today, but mostly only in special cases. Use of bloodletting and leeches originally was based on scientific ideas now know to be false. Shock therapy can be used for treating some mental disorders, but now is mainly used if medication doesn't work since it induces seizures, though actually doesn't usually have long time side effects. A far worse historical treatment is lobotomization, which involve inserting a tool into the eye socket and cutting up the front of the brain to treat mental disorders. The result were unpredictable and often resulted in the patient becoming a vegetable, and for a lot of the people this procedure was done to it was completely unnecessary due to the lack of understanding of mental illnesses at the time.
  • Te Chinese emperor Qin Shi Huangdi is believed to have died from ingesting mercury on his doctors' advice. Why would they recommend ingesting mercury? As part of an immortality potion.
    • Mercury continued to used be as a medication into the 19th century, becoming a particularly popular treatment for syphilis. The Lewis and Clark expedition path has been tracked in part by mercury deposits left over from the pills they were using as a laxative.
  • Allergic reactions, ranging from hayfever to potentially lethal anaphylactic shock, result from the immune system overreacting to foreign substances, many of which are only harmful because people are allergic to them.


How well does it match the trope?

Example of:


Media sources: