Follow TV Tropes


Healthcare Motivation

Go To

"You didn't really want to join the Black Order, Suman... you chose to become an exorcist to pay for a treatment for your daughter's rare disease."

In countries where the healthcare sector is mostly or entirely run for profit, as a result of very poor or non-existent universal (publicly-provided or state-monitored) healthcare, healthcare providers and insurers prioritise profit generation over the survival and wellbeing of the population.

Poor healthcare systems kill and ruin the lives of actual people, but are great fodder for the Rule of Drama given that working- and even middle-class characters can be just one perfectly ordinary accident (foreign body, broken bone, lopped-off finger) or medical condition (myopia, 'flu, diabetes) — let alone Soap Opera Disease — away from being completely bankrupted or dying.

Saving themselves or a dying family member/lover/friend is a great motivation for a character to do (morally questionable) things that they otherwise might not, especially if money-grubbing private hospitals refuse to treat people without insurance unless they're paid cash upfront (this does actually happen, sadly). Whether it's working themselves to the bone, getting indebted to shady characters, participating in gladiatorial blood-sports, being a mercenary/hitman, selling their body, subjecting themselves to experimentation or plotting a Bank Robbery — love can inspire them to do all sorts of unusual things.

Related to Billy Needs an Organ. Often overlaps with Justified Criminal when said character engages in morally dubious, illegal, if not outright criminal acts. May also overlap with No Healthcare in the Apocalypse. Related to Littlest Cancer Patient, Delicate and Sickly, Incurable Cough of Death, and Soap Opera Disease. See also Signed Up for the Dental for a more personal version. Compare Working for a Body Upgrade and Saved by the Phlebotinum.

"Non-criminal" Examples

    open/close all folders 

    Anime & Manga 
  • In Attack on Titan, it's eventually revealed to be what motivated Bertolt Hoover. The military was providing medical care for their ailing father, who was able to "die in comfort" thanks to their child's service.
  • Moses fights for BEGA during BeyBlade: G-Revolution because Volkov pays for the expensive operation that his little sister Monica desperately needs. It's the whole reason he became a professional beyblader to begin with. Monica gets her operation, but it unexpectedly comes back to bite him when Volkov holds this over his head to force him into sabotaging Takao. As an aside, all of Moses's family works hard to finance Monica's care, but, well, not as bladers, so we're only informed of this.
  • Black Jack invokes this a few times; since Black Jack is operating illegally in the first place, he can charge any fee he likes, and some characters do indeed wind up doing things they never would have considered otherwise to pay the money.
  • Blade of the Immortal:
    • O-Ren has been working in a brothel since she was 13 to pay for her mother's treatment. It's implied that several other prostitutes are in the same boat.
    • Giichi became a government spy to take care of his son, who dies partway through the story.
  • In Darwin's Game, Hiiragi's motivation for participating in the titular game is in hopes of winning enough money to pay for his daughter's medical care.
  • Suman Dark in D.Gray-Man half-heartedly became an Exorcist to pay for his daughter's treatment. When he betrays the Order to save his life and be able to see his family again, it doesn't end well for him.
  • Et Cetera: Happens in Baskerville's backstory, where he murdered countless of innocents on the Syndicate's behalf in exchange for medicine for his sick little sister Chisel. Unfortunately, the "medicine" the Syndicate gave him was actually narcotics, and this eventually led to her early demise. As a result, he left the organization and seeks to find the Eto gun to get his revenge against the Syndicate's leader.
  • In Duel Masters, Benny Ha-ha tells one of these stories in an effort to convince Shobu to forfeit. It's a lie. (In the original version, it's a generic young girl; in the dub, it's young Mimi.)
  • In Full Metal Panic!, Kurz joined Mithril to pay the hospital bills of a girl who was injured in one of his old missions. More exactly, the one where he and his Evil Mentor were supposed to kill the assassins of Kurz's parents. Kurz had second thoughts when he realised the girl would be hurt, but the Evil Mentor still fired anyway.
  • In GTO: The Early Years and the anime version of Great Teacher Onizuka, Nao Kadena becomes a teacher/school nurse respectively to earn the money for her comatose brother's medical treatment. She supplements her wages by selling products to the students.
  • In Hajime no Ippo, Alexander Volg Zangief comes to Japan to earn money from professional boxing and help his ill and poor mother in Russia. Unfortunately, he fails.
  • In Hana no Ko Lunlun, Lunlun befriends the kids of an Orphanage of Love in Southern Italy, who are looking for a treasure from World War II supposedly buried near the orphanage so they can get money for the local girl's eye operation. They find it — and it's actually a not-detonated bomb. As the police and the press arrive and the whole country's attention is on them, the desperate kids refuse to hand the bomb over even when the girl pleads with them AND the Goldfish Poop Gang tries to detonate it, and Lunlun then explains the situation to the camera and begs people for donations. This works: the girl is soon operated on and it's implied some good-hearted people are offering to adopt the children.
  • Played with Leorio in Hunter × Hunter: introduced as greedy and money-obsessed, the man reveals he lost his childhood friend Pietro due to a treatable disease because Pietro's parents were poor. Now, he wants to become a doctor to give free healthcare to people in his friend's situation... but it turns out that becoming a doctor costs even more money, making him go to extreme ends to get funding. (He doesn't resort to crime, but he risks his life multiple times in the infamous hunter exams.)
  • Ino-Head Gargoyle: Yuka Mainohara became a stripper to pay for her father's medical bills.
  • In Moriarty the Patriot, Sherlock agrees to work for the US government after The Final Problem on the guarantee that all of William's medical care will be provided.
  • In Muhyo and Roji, Enchu's desire to support his sick and poor mother fuels his efforts to become an Executor. This is possibly deconstructed when the committee deciding whether he or Muhyo would be promoted was concerned about his preoccupation with his sick mother. Their concerns are not entirely unfounded, as her death, combined with his being passed over, triggers his Face–Heel Turn (just as Teeki planned when he killed her).
  • The title character of My-HiME tires herself out working in order to transfer her sick little brother to a hospital where he can be treated properly.
  • In Negima! Magister Negi Magi, Akira and Natsumi sell themselves into slavery in the Magical World to get the medicines for an ill Ako. While she gets better soon, said meds are so expensive that she has to sell herself as well. Negi finds out and signs up at a local tournament to raise money and release them, which works very well.
  • In Neon Genesis Evangelion, the first indication the viewer gets that Toji Suzuhara is the Fourth Child is when some people are heard discussing his deciding to be the pilot on the condition that his little sister gets medical treatment with NERV, and Toji is shown walking down the halls of the hospital while this is heard.
  • The main motivation of the Takakura siblings in Penguindrum is to find a cure for Himari's illness after she comes back from the dead in the first episode. This goes double for Kanba, who has several shady contacts and a Deal with the Devil with Sanetoshi just to get the money for the cure.
    • Subverted by Masako. Her younger brother Mario is in a similar situation, but while she accepts Sanetoshi's Deal with the Devil, she later rebels against him and tries to get her other brother Kanba to do the same.
  • In Ratman, ANK Security's corporate-sponsored hero comes across as a real Jerkass, intentionally putting innocent lives at greater risk by sabotaging a sprinkler system during a fire in a crowded hotel specifically so his rescue efforts will seem more impressive. At first, he claims that heroism itself died when corporate sponsorship became typical and boasts about basking in money and prestige. It's only later that we discover that Ankaiser's mother has steep medical bills, and both money, prestige, and how impressive his fights become are all vital to keeping his Hero Rank and corporate sponsorship going.
  • The reason why Tokiko Chida from Revolutionary Girl Utena became a scientist was to find a cure for her little brother Mamiya. She failed, and Mamiya died in another incident. The "Mamiya" that Mikage sees is actually Anthy in disguise, as he had mentally blocked out the real one's death.
  • s-CRY-ed: This is what motivates Ayase Terada's Face–Heel Turn in the anime. She submits to Holy's refinement of her alter power and agrees to fight for them in exchange for them helping her little brother. Unfortunately, the stress of her power being refined coupled with her brother dying suddenly results in her own death.
  • In Toriko Takimaru's motivation for retrieving the Century Soup (the MacGuffin of one arc) is to use the money he'll get for retrieving it to buy his mentor Aimaru a cure for the numerous illnesses he's been infected with (since his ability is to absorb illness, which eventually took its toll).
  • Variable Geo: Shortly after Damian discovers Satomi's latent fighting potential, The Jahana Group pressures her into entering the VG tournament by causing her brother's condition to relapse, just as he'd begun to show signs of improving. Damian offers to cover the costs of the procedure needed to treat Daisuke, in exchange for her "cooperation".
  • What motivates Jonouchi/Joey in Yu-Gi-Oh! for entering the Duelist Kingdom Tournament is to pay for a treatment for his soon-to-be-blind little sister Shizuka/Serenity with the huge reward. Double subverted as he loses in the last round, but is still essentially given the money by another sympathetic competitor (his best friend Yugi).

    Comic Books 
  • Batman villain Mr. Freeze is often (Depending on the Writer) portrayed as being motivated to villainy by his desire to preserve and revive his wife Nora, whom he was forced to place into cryogenic suspension to prevent her from dying from an incurable disease.
  • One short story from an eighties AIDS awareness comic had a criminal rob ten banks in one day...because that's what it took to afford enough AZT for the weekend.
  • Eat the Rich (2021): A common reason people sign up to work for the Crestfall Bluffs families despite knowing they'll be killed and eaten at the end of their contracts is because healthcare for either themselves or their families is ridiculously expensive, and the families pay for everything. Petal, who nannies for the Hadleys, tells Joey that her conditions would have killed her anyway because she couldn't afford the treatment. The groundskeeper who was killed in the first issue agreed because the family paid for his grandson's chemo.
  • Peek-a-Boo, a one-shot villain from The Flash turned out to be an engineering student who'd used her tech for crime to pay for an operation for her father.
  • It often was Spider-Man's motivation himself — his aunt May needs either medicine or an operation. The classic "Master Planner" story was probably the best example.

    Fan Works 
  • In the Miraculous Ladybug fic Ценность и цена by Ozero_Kate (translated to English as Prices and Values), Chat finds Ladybug considering selling the secret of her identity to the press (or her virginity) to pay for her father's treatment. While Adrien is wealthy enough to pay for the operation, getting his Lady to accept the donation without an identity reveal (or her feeling obliged to try repaying the money) turns out to be harder than expected. Of course, a few reviewers noted the trope isn't nearly as likely to occur in France.
  • In Mythos Effect, the Volus need Primarch support to break off from the Hierarchy. As of Chapter 24, they got two: one supports them due to his daughter requiring expensive treatments for Corpalis syndrome, and the Volus are footing the bill (the other guy is a more straightforward case of Every Man Has His Price).

    Film - Live Action 
  • In Avatar, Jake Sully agrees to take his late brother's place in the Avatar program because he was paralyzed from the waist down in an unnamed war and can't afford the surgery to have his spine fixed on veteran's benefits.
  • Cruel Gun Story: Togawa, a Yakuza recently paroled from jail, agrees to rob an armored cash truck. Why? To pay for a surgery for his sister, left in a wheelchair after a truck ran over her legs. Subverted when a doctor tells Togawa straight up that the surgery won't work and that Rie will always be wheelchair-bound. Togawa goes ahead anyway.
  • The Dark Knight: A Corrupt Cop Anna Ramirez is outed as The Mole who sold information to The Joker and the Gotham Mob and assisted in the kidnapping of Harvey Dent and Rachel Dawes, resulting in Harvey's disfigurement into Two-Face, and Rachel's death. When Harvey confronts them over this, they try to defend themselves by saying they're struggling to pay for their mother's hospital bills.

  • In The Angel of Khan el-Khalili, Aliaa goes to a supernatural creature called Seeker hoping to buy a miracle that can heal her mortally wounded sister Aisha. The dress factory where Aliaa and Aisha worked together caught fire; Aisha heroically dragged Aliaa to safety and then ran back in to rescue their coworkers, suffering horrible burns and smoke inhalation in the process. Aliaa is responsible for setting the blaze, not realizing that their employers had locked the workers in the building — she winds up trading away pieces of her soul to Seeker for a Panacea that will heal Aisha.
  • Joe Pickett: The other warden in Stone Cold is letting Critchfield get away with everything he is so he can continue to take care of his disabled daughter after his wife and the girl's mother left them.
  • In Metaltown, Cherish's sickness from the corn flu drove Colin and his mother out of Bakerstown to Metaltown, as her medical bills were too high to retain the house. Helping her get well is one of Colin's goals.
  • In Stephen King's The Running Man (published under the pen name Richard Bachman), Richards signs up for the Games to get money to get his daughter medical care.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Jaymes from season 21 of The Amazing Race did the show because he wanted his dad to not have to work / worry about money while he had cancer.
  • The Turkish Soap Opera Binbir Gece (VERY loosely based on Arabian Nights) has the beautiful Sehrzat, whose son Kaan has leukemia. Having been rejected by her dead husband's family and being desperate for any source of money to pay for the treatment, she's stuck with an offer from her very handsome boss Onur (who has been crushing on her for a while): he will put up enough "dough"... on the condition that she spends a whole night with him.
  • Cannon: The Victim of the Week in "A Flight of Hawks" needs money to pay for his son's kidney treatment, so he takes a shady job working for a group of Private Military Contractors. However, when he learns they are planning a War for Fun and Profit, he bails and attempts to sell the information to the target government. This gets him killed.
  • In The Last of Us (2023), Henry needs to find drugs to save his brother, Sam, who has leukemia. He ends up getting them by betraying Rebel Leader Michael to the tyrannical FEDRA, leading to Michael's death.
  • In one episode of Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, a couple end up doing porn to pay for their daughter's expensive cystic fibrosis treatment. Unfortunately, it turns out that Mommy Dearest liked the job a little too much, and ends up skipping off to Vegas hoping to break a porn record or two.
  • Sense8: Capheus' mother is seriously ill with AIDS but the only drugs they can afford are poorer quality ones that actually make her condition worse. Capheus eventually accepts a job with Silas Kabaka, a powerful criminal leader, who has access to the good medication. Despite Kabaka's business dealings Capheus' job is the above-board role of driving Silas' daughter Amondi to school and back.

  • Elsie of The Yeomen of the Guard agrees to marry Fairfax prior to his execution because she needs the thousand crowns for her ill mother.

    Tabletop Games 
  • This is one of the stock Melodramatic Hooks for Feng Shui, and often sees use with characters like Killers and Thieves (though any character type can get stuck with this, which is why this isn't on the other list below).

    Video Games 
  • Advanced V.G.: Unlike her later OVA portrayal, Satomi's motivation in the game itself involves no blackmail whatsoever. She joins the tournament of her own free will in hopes of winning the prize money for her brother's treatment.
  • Gruga in Arc the Lad 2 enters the tournament to win the money to pay to cure his adopted daughter's blindness.
  • Art of Fighting 2: King entered the King of Fighters to win the money she needed to fund her kid brother, Jan's, operation. While she didn't win, Ryo and Robert pooled their winnings to fund the operation for her, as thanks for helping them save Yuri the year before.
    • This carried over to the King of Fighters series, which is an alternate continuity of both the Fatal Fury and Art of Fighting series. King entered the '94 tournament to pay for Jan's operation, using her winnings in subsequent showings to pay for his continued treatment. The Women's Team '96 ending was a homage to King's AoF 2 ending, as Mai and Kasumi combined their share of the winnings to surprise her, by flying Jan to their location so she could see him.
  • Sparrowson's hospitalization over eating a poisoned wrapper in case 2 of Aviary Attorney leads to a very dismaying bill, but a doctor offers to lower it if he can get a successful inventor to finally pay a bill he has due.
  • Emitai, one of your opponents in the Contest of Champions in Breath of Fire III, is fighting to get money for his ailing daughter's operation. Subverted when you find out he's lying about the illness — he's conning his opponents into throwing the fights out of sympathy. When you beat him, he grudgingly admits to being impressed you didn't fall for it, while his wife chews him out for not being convincing enough.
  • In Dead or Alive 2, Gen Fu entered the DOATEC tournament to save his ill granddaughter, after hearing that the Tengu's nose was a magical cure-all. It's never said whether he succeeded, since Hayabusa was the one who slew Tengu; thus becoming the second canonical champion of the tournament. But, by the time of DOA 4, Gen Fu's granddaughter is said to have made a full recovery and all of her medical expenses are paid off, which ended his involvement in the series.
  • Dead Rising 2 sees Chuck forced into Terror Is Reality in order to earn money for his daughter's Zombrex.
  • Dragon Age: Inquisition: Magister Gereon Alexius of the Tevinter Imperium agreed to work with the Big Bad of the story, since he promised to assist in curing his son Felix's terminal illness. Doubles as a Tear Jerker, since while Gereon wasn't exactly a nice guy (being a slave-owning Tevinter Magister will do that), he genuinely cared for his son and it's clear that he began working with Corypheus and the Venatori mostly out of desperation to cure his son of his disease.
    • Subverted in the Bad Future that is shown if the Inquisitor doesn't succeed in stopping him, since Corypheus's "cure" for Felix effectively reduced him to a catatonic wreck who was barely even conscious. And he's perfectly aware by that point that he's about to be removed from play since he's outlived his utility and can't help Corypheus any longer.
  • EXTRAPOWER: Attack of Darkforce: Gradius is a bem, a parasitic space alien that propagates by infesting and assimilating the native life of the planets they infest. In this case, Earth. He joins up with the SPICA mercenary group to fight and exterminate the other bem in exchange for securing ongoing medical attention for Flamberge, bem woman reduced to a sickly state after her infection was left incomplete.
  • In Fire Emblem: The Blazing Blade, Dorcas starts as a bandit to earn money for the medicine his wife Natalie needs. After being steered away from it and joining Lyndis's group, he switches to the non-criminal motivation, and in either Eliwood's or Hector's routes he and his best friend Bartre join the troops to earn the money they still are in need of. If Dorcas makes it to the end, he gets said money and meds, and Natalie starts recovering soon.
  • In The Jackbox Party Pack 3's "Tee K.O.", a nekomata, one of the characters that can be chosen, enters the T-shirt competition so they can get treatment for their ailing mother. If they win, the Mayo Clinic gets moved by the victory and heal the mother free of charge, while also giving her cybernetic thumbs and a bluetooth spleen.
  • Nier needs money for Yonah's medicine... even though her disease, the Black Scrawl, is terminal. In Replicant, when he can't find enough odd jobs and quests in his village, he resorts to prostituting himself.
  • Buying medicine for his sister Castille is what motivates Walnut in Phantom Brave.
  • In Remember Me, Bounty Hunter Olga Sedova goes after Nilin because her husband needs very expensive medical treatments and Nilin has a big price on her head after her escape from the New Bastille.
  • Dhalsim's motivation for entering the Street Fighter tournament is to use the prize money to buy medicine for his village. The skulls he wears around his neck belong to local children who died due to lack of meds and treatment.
    • In SFIV, Dhalsim's motivation isn't that different. He wants to find Seth and confront him on how a S.I.N. has built a dam far upstream blocking a river that provides water (and trade, fishing, etc.) to his village. His ending shows the damn being demolished and the river being reclaimed by the happy villagers.

    Visual Novel 
  • In Zero Time Dilemma, Carlos signs up to participate in the experiment that leads to the events of the game because he wants the five hundred thousand dollar reward for his sister's medical care.

    Western Animation 
  • In the Jem and the Holograms 3-parter "Starbright", the band initially wants to pull out of the titular film project when their rivals The Misfits become part of it and start jockeying for focus. At the end of part one, however, Jerrica (Jem's true identity) learns that one of the Starlight House's foster girls, Ba Nee, is going blind and an expensive operation is needed to restore her sight. Leaving the film would mean missing out on making the money that could pay for it, so for the girl's sake, Jem and the Holograms stay on. Even when the Troubled Production splits the project into rival films, the good guys soldier on and the end result is a box-office success that saves Ba Nee.
  • In My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic, Applejack wants to go to the Grand Galloping Gala to set up shop there and raise enough money to, among other things, buy a new hip for Granny Smith.

"Illegal activity" examples

    Anime & Manga 
  • In Candy & Cigarettes, Raizou takes a job as a Cleanup Crew for Murder, Inc. to earn money for his grandson's medical treatment.
  • The Cowboy Bebop episode "Waltz for Venus" features a guy named Rocco, a good kid running with a bad crowd to get enough money for his younger sister Stella's blindness to be cured. It ends badly for him, although at least Spike is actually able to get treatment for Stella, so Rocco's death wasn't totally in vain.
  • In Hana no Ko Lunlun, this was the motivation behind the lockpick Dario's Dark and Troubled Past in the Italy arc. He needed money for his son's medicine and the local bank robbers offered him a part of the money to be stolen in exchange for him using his lockpicking skills for their benefit. It backfired horribly: they got caught, Dario barely escaped but became a fugitive, and his kid died.
  • An episode of Hell Girl has a protagonist name Shuichi who got together with a pair of thieves so that he could obtain money for expensive medical care for his wife. During a break-in, they find a large sum and one orders Shuichi to kill the other for trying to run off with some of it. The protagonist does so but never sees any of the money as the other thief uses it to start his own business. Shuichi ultimately drives himself deeply into debt to pay for his wife's care legitimately and plans to turn himself in when he's paid for it in full. The episode ends, of course, with the other thief being sent to Hell.
  • In Knight Hunters, it's revealed early on that the reason Ran "Aya" Fujimiya became an assassin, and takes any job he's given (even though they are given the option to refuse jobs they don't like), is because his little sister Aya-chan is in a coma after an accident (which turns out to not have been accidental), and he took up the work to pay for her medical bills. She wakes up and recovers later.
  • Shanalua Mullen of Mobile Suit Gundam AGE has a young sister with an unspecified illness that requires hospitalization and very expensive care, so she takes a very lucrative offer to spy on her own comrades for Vagan.
  • William in Moriarty the Patriot paid for his younger brother's life-saving heart surgery with murder on demand.
  • In Penguindrum, the aforementioned Kanba becomes increasingly involved with the Takakura family's illegal terrorist group in order to use their connections to gather money to pay for Himari's treatment. By the end, he's even personally ordering hits on people who Know Too Much and outright seems to be the group's leader. However, this is very much played as an awful, corrupting thing on him, and both Himari and Shouma want him to stop. In the end, he goes the Redemption Equals Death way.
  • One episode of Samurai Champloo has a person who steals to get money to pay for medicine for his ailing mother.

    Comic Books 
  • Booster Gold was originally a college football star from a poor family; in most versions of the story, his mother became seriously ill and Booster started betting on and throwing his games in order to get the money for her treatment.
  • The Dark Knight Returns: A general supplies military weapons to criminals to pay for his wife's cancer treatment and commits suicide when Batman finds him.
  • The Mirror Master in one issue of the Justice League Unlimited spinoff comic is trying to raise the money for an operation for his wheelchair-bound son. At one point, he holds illusionary people hostage and demands a ransom of exactly the amount he needs.
  • In NYX, Felon often uses his powers for shady jobs in order to raise money to get his severely autistic brother, Lil' Bro, out of District X and into a school where he can get the care he needs. He ultimately takes on New York pimp Zebra Daddy's job to track down a runaway prostitute. When Zebra Daddy decides to kill X and everyone else involved, it results in a Heel–Face Turn.
  • Spider-Man: This was the motivation given by the Vulture once for robbing a bank, to pay for his granddaughter's operation. Spider-Man brings him in anyway but gives the money to the girl's mother. (The bank manager was apparently an asshole, so it all works out fine.)
  • In Ultimate X-Men, the conjoined twin mutant brothers calling themselves Syndicate rob a bank that Xavier happened to be visiting and hold everyone there hostage because they are trying to pay for their little sister's operation. Xavier uses his powers to fake their deaths at the hands of the police and recruits them as his personal spies in exchange for paying for their sister's treatment.
  • Several I Just Want to Be Normal-type villains, notably the Rhino on Spider-Man's side of things and Killer Croc on Batman's, have this as their go-to motivation for knocking over a bank or taking some hit-job.

    Fan Works 
  • In Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality, the Aurors guarding Azkaban are known to look the other way when people sneak in to give prisoners illegal chocolate and Patronus time, for the right price. What the right price is depends on which Auror catches you — Bahry, whose wife is ill and needs expensive treatments, demands the highest price by far.

    Film — Live-Action 
  • Ajami: Malek agrees to help Omar sell a pack of drugs, because he needs to get $75,000 for his mother's bone marrow transplant.
  • Mr. Freeze in Batman & Robin is desperately trying to cure his wife's disease and will stop at nothing, including freezing all of Gotham, to do it. Notably in the end Batman Cuts Mr. Freeze A Check and offers to let him continue his research from Arkham Asylum rather than do it illegally, in exchange for the cure for the early-stage variant of the disease that Alfred has.
  • Clara Bow becomes a Streetwalker in Call Her Savage so she can buy medicine for her baby.
  • Catch That Kid. A group of children rob a high-security bank to pay for surgery for the father of one of the kids.
  • Andrew from the film Chronicle commits robbery to pay for his cancer-stricken mother's medication.
  • Damage: focuses on a man named John Brickner who's out on parole after killing a man in self-defense. The man's widow arranged John's parole because her daughter needs a heart transplant and she can't afford it. John ends up participating in an underground fighting circuit in order to raise the money for the girl's operation.
  • In The Dark Knight, when Harvey Dent confronts Anna Ramirez, the Dirty Cop who's been secretly feeding information to the Gotham mob including information which the Joker used to kidnap and kill Harvey's girlfriend Rachel, they try to defend themselves and starts talking about their mother's hospital bills before Harvey tells them he doesn't want to hear excuses.
  • In Dirty Work, the protagonists start their revenge business to raise the $50,000 a gambling addict doctor needs to pay off his bookies so he will be alive to operate on the father of one of the protagonists (who turns out to be the father of the other protagonist, too).
  • Dog Day Afternoon. One of the reasons that Sonny robbed the bank was to get money to pay for a friend's sex-change operation. Truth in Television.
  • This is a driving factor in Elysium. Max has been exposed to lethal levels of radiation because of his employer's negligence, and his girlfriend's daughter is dying of cancer. He agrees to commit a dangerous robbery in order to pay for his ticket to the titular space station, where magical machines that can heal anything are freely available.
  • In Graduation, Carl needs to raise $100,000 to pay for a bone marrow transplant to treat his mother's cancer. After discovering her father is having an affair with one of his staff, Polly suggests that they rob the bank he manages: stealing old currency that scheduled for destruction. Along with their best friends Jackson and Chauncey, they plot to rob the bank during their high school graduation.
  • The plot of Heist (2015) revolves around a casino heist by an employee who needs to pay for his sick daughter's treatment.
  • Henry's Crime: A slightly variation provides the motivation of Frank the bank guard becoming the Inside Man for Henry's Bank Robbery. Frank had worked for the bak for 30 years and he and his wife planned to retire to the south of France. A year before he was due to retire, his wife became ill, and his insurance wouldn't cover the full cost of her treatment. The bank refused to make up the shortfall despite his years of loyal service (and foiling at least one robbery), so Frank was forced to use his retirement savings to pay for her treatment. His wife died anyway, and Frank was left unable to retire as all of his savings were gone. Joining the robbery is his way of both funding his retirement and getting revenge on the bank.
  • Johnny, of Johnny Dangerously, became the famous gangster that he is to pay for his mother's increasingly high medical bills (the more money Johnny acquires, the higher the price the doctor charges...)
  • The whole premise of John Q., a (rather Anvilicious for many) critique of the American health-care system. After failing to earn enough money to operate on his son Michael, John Quincy Archibald Takes A Third Option and takes the hospital hostage, demanding a free treatment and brewing a Thanatos Gambit to get himself killed and donate his own heart to his kid. Even when John is eventually subdued, Michael is saved and it's strongly implied that John will leave jail rather soon, probably due to his desperate circumstances.
  • The title character of The Killer takes on a final assassination job in order to pay for the corneal surgery of a woman who he accidentally blinded in the movie's first shootout. The plot ensues when his handler's boss, Wong Hoi, decides to take out a Contract on the Hitman rather than pay him.
  • Kuroido Goroshi: Dr. Shiba became a blackmailer, extorting a huge pile of money from Mrs. Karatsu, in order to pay for brain cancer treatment for his desperately ill sister. (Then he winds up committing murder in a Crime After Crime way.)
  • In Spider-Man 3, Flint Marko aka Sandman steals to pay for medical treatment for his critically ill daughter, Penny.
  • Street Angel: Angela's mother's severe illness makes her resort to prostitution.
  • Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance has the main character kidnap a child for ransom in order to pay for a kidney transplant for his sister. It goes to hell from there.
  • In The Trap (Serbian: "Klopka"), the protagonist is hired to kill a man so he could raise money for his son's life-saving operation.
  • The French film Yamakasi has this for a premise. A small boy gets hurt trying to imitate the famous Parkour group and needs very expensive surgery which his family is too poor to afford. So the Yamakasi decide to apologize to the family by robbing some very rich people and paying for the surgery, doing awesome stunts in the process.

  • Parodied in a joke about the Canadian version of Breaking Bad:
    Opening Scene: Walter White sits in his doctor's office. The Doctor looks at him seriously.
    Walter: How bad is it?
    Doctor: I'm afraid it's cancer. I'll schedule you in to begin treatment next week. Just make sure the hospital has your Medicare number.
    [Closing Credits]
    • Note that Breaking Bad itself is actually not an example of this trope, meaning the joke is misapplied. Walter's cancer was terminal, all treatment could do was delay his death, and his motivation in cooking meth was to have money to leave his family, not to provide himself with better medical care.

  • One-Third Nerd: In order to pay for the dog Cupcake's vet appointment, Dakota sells her purple sequin slippers on eBay. Then she steals Liam's collection of Bigfoot memorabilia and Izzy's stuffed horses and sells them too. Liam is furious at her for stealing, but Dakota justifies it by saying that Cupcake is more important than their things.
  • In Sasquatch by Roland Smith, the elderly Buckley Johnson turns out to be Dan "D. B." Cooper, who hijacked a Boeing 727 in 1971 and ransomed 200,000 dollars so he can have money to pay for his son's cancer treatment. Unfortuently, he broke his leg when escaping, preventing him from reaching his son before the latter died from cancer.
  • In The Savant, Arlo's estranged mother steals most of the money from his account to pay the medical bills of her younger son, who was badly injured in the car accident that killed her second husband. As Arlo is a minor, his mother has access to the account and isn't doing anything illegal, but Arlo doesn't know about the medical bills and thinks he's just been robbed.
  • Tricky Business: Having already served a prison sentence for smuggling cocaine in The '80s, Eddie had no desire to work for The Mafia ever again. But he agreed to take the job as captain of the Extravaganza of the Seas because his young stepson needed a heart operation, and he had no other way to pay for it—as the man who came to hire him helpfully pointed out. Downplayed in that he is not personally getting his hands dirty (he just takes the ship where he's told and doesn't ask too many questions), but knows he could still be arrested as an accomplice.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Arrow:
    • Subverted by Roy Harper, who spins a tale of a sick relative to explain why he turned to crime when Thea confronts him over a stolen bag. After returning the bag (emptied of its cash), he tells her not to believe everything she hears from guys like him, winks, and closes the door in her face.
    • Played straight in the episode "Time of Death"; wanting to pay for a medical treatment for his dying sister is what motivates William Tockman (the Clock King) into committing a series of bank robberies.
  • Subverted by Breaking Bad. It's a common misconception that Walt got into the drug trade to pay for cancer treatment. In fact, he was motivated by the fact that his cancer was definitely terminal, meaning that a) he wouldn't be around to provide for his family and b) he wouldn't be around to face the consequences of his actions. In point of fact, Walter had to be talked to accepting treatment in the first place and turned down an offer from wealthy friends to pay for his treatment. He was motivated by pride, not desperation.
  • Criminal Minds tends to go for more complicated motives than simply "needed money," so when this shows up, it gets played with.
    • The most straightforward version is one episode where the unsub in question is beating people to death out of misplaced frustration with his son's battle with cancer. When he (mistakenly) believes the hospital is withholding treatment due to money, he first places a bet on himself in a legitimate boxing match, then beats and robs his manager, then enters a shady-but-still-technically-legal fight with a large cash payout.
    • A few unsubs have used curing themselves or a loved one as the basis/excuse for medical experimentation on victims. Notable instances include the mastermind of "To Hell..." "...And Back" (neurological problems), the doctor in "God Complex" (limb transplants) and "Future Perfect" (simple aging).
  • In the Decoy episode "Savage Payoff," college basketball star Bobby Phillips takes bribes from gamblers to throw games and gives his teammate Dave some of the money to pay for Dave's father's operations. After Bobby dies in a car crash, the gamblers try to bribe Dave himself. In the end, Dave decides to play to win, knowing his father would rather die than see him become a criminal.
  • In the Dragnet 1967 episode "The Bookie," a man takes bets to pay for surgery for his ten-year-old daughter, who has a heart defect. Not only is he caught and arrested, his daughter dies a few hours after surgery.
  • Flashpoint:
    • In the episode "Thicker Than Blood", a man's son has leukemia. He robs a credit union in order to get enough money to pay for his son's bone marrow transplant.
    • Also in the episode "First in Line", a man is informed by his hospital that a donor heart is available for his dying daughter, only to discover the heart will be given to someone else because of a mix-up. He takes a hospital wing hostage, demanding that his daughter receive the transplant.
  • There's a whole season arc of Friday Night Lights around this — Mindy's pregnancy isn't going well, but lacking health insurance, Billy can't afford to get her hospitalized and ensure she and the baby are stable. So what does he do? He starts stripping cars for money.
  • In the Miami Vice episode "Knock, Knock... Who's There?" a rogue DEA agent steals drugs and money during fake raids in order to pay for her son's kidney transplant.
  • Psych subverts this: One episode was centered around a sufferer of Van Wilder's Disease, a disease that required regular blood transfusions. Naturally, the murderer had no health insurance and a rare blood type, so he killed people for their blood and robbed blood banks for his own healthcare.
  • Squid Game protagonist Gi-hun Seong took part in the Deadly Game in the hopes of using the prize money to fix the problems caused by his crippling gambling addiction, but tries to escape only to be drawn back in after discovering that his mother's Secretly Dying from untreated diabetes because he cancelled their insurance for more gambling money.
  • There is an episode of Tales from the Crypt where a man who is an artist has been killing people to paint their death scenes. His significant other discovers this and is badly injured trying to get away — at the hospital, he finds out that she can only be saved by an extremely expensive specialist, so he goes out to the parking lot and kills someone so he can sell the painting for the money to pay. The person he killed was the specialist, so it didn't matter anyway.

    Video Games 
  • In Hogwarts Legacy, Slytherin student and Lovable Rogue Sebastian Sallow delves deeper and deeper into illegal Black Magic in the hopes of undoing a deadly curse placed on his twin sister by the goblins, while everyone around him warns that it can only end in tragedy. His efforts end up being All for Nothing, as he gets Drunk on the Dark Side and murders his uncle, causing his sister to hate him, while the player lifts the curse themselves by killing the man responsible.
  • Fire Emblem:
    • In Fire Emblem: The Blazing Blade, Dorcas joins up with a group of bandits to earn money for the medicine his Delicate and Sickly wife needs. Fortunately, Lyn is there to straighten him out.
    • In Fire Emblem: Radiant Dawn, Heather steals medicine for her mom.
    • In Fire Emblem: Awakening, Holland joins some bandits to get enough money to take care of his heavily pregnant wife. The player must keep the guy alive to recruit a certain girl who is also press-ganged by the bandits and whom he struck an Odd Friendship with: Cordelia's Kid from the Future, Severa.
      • Awakening also lampshades the trope for laughs in one of the Outrealm missions: einjerhar Caeda tries to recruit one of the party members by asking if they're trying to support an ill mother and offering gold for medicine. This is actually a direct reference to Shadow Dragon, where she asks the same question of recruitable character Roger; he's not (his parents having long since passed), but just having someone care about him is enough for him to change sides.
  • In Mega Man Battle Network 6, this is Mr. Mach's reason for joining the WWW. As he eventually reveals to Lan, his daughter was born with a grave illness and needed a very expensive operation to survive. Right when his daughter was about to die, a man (namely Dr. Wily) came to Mr. Mach and offered to pay for the surgery in exchange for Mr. Mach joining the WWW.
  • In Mute, the Headsplitter subjects her daughter mute to a painful mind experimentation to turn her into a hard worker and use her to raise the money needed to save her other daughter, who is in the hospital.
  • This is Rowd's motivation in Suikoden II to join the ranks of Luca Blight's Quirky Miniboss Squad.
  • World of Horror uses this to add depth to one of your opponents. Upon defeating them, they drop a prescription for some expensive medication, which belongs to their ailing grandmother. Filling said prescription and visiting the Illegal Den lets you give the pills to her, unlocking her as a Secret Character.

    Visual Novels 
  • In Soryu's sequel route in Kissed by the Baddest Bidder, this turns out to be the reason that Kyoichiro turned against the Ice Dragons: his mother is critically ill and he needs a large amount of money to pay the only doctor who might be able to cure her. When he finds out, Soryu blames himself for not realizing that one of his men was in that kind of need, since if he had known he would simply have paid for the doctor himself. Which is precisely what he and Eisuke proceed to do.

  • This is how a rape is "commissioned" in Concession. Ironically, the ill girl dies that very night.
  • In one story arc of Jack, a man becomes the assistant of a doctor who is working on inventing a new treatment that could potentially cure the man's wife's terminal illness. Then he discovers the doctor molesting the children he is using for his "clinical trials". The man agrees to keep quiet because he wants to save his wife. In a bit of karmic backlash, his wife is horrified when the man admits the truth and the stress kills her. The man has to endure Purgatory and at least one more life filled with hardship and pain before he can be reunited with her. In fact, this is why the doctor chose him to be his assistant. Someone who didn't have this kind of motivation would have reported him in a heartbeat.
  • Daewi in The God of High School entered the titular tournament in the hopes of using the promised "wish" to pay for his best friend's cancer treatments.
  • Subverted in Latchkey Kingdom, where Willa's kidnapper is quick to add that the "operation" is not of the medical sort.
    Jane: This is just a job to me. I'm only doing it because my mom needs money for her operation. (next panel) Well, it's more of a scheme really. She swears she just needs H⃒500 to crack the Shadowwood cluck cluck races wide open.
  • Unsounded: Elan Aled will die without the treatment he gets from Bastion, who has him do illegal things for him as payment. His faith in the system he works for was also broken when he learned that Bastion's treatment for his heart condition isn't an illegal newfangled Black Tongue invention but something well known, which the state's doctors didn't tell him of when they gave him his fatal prognosis since he's not worth enough to the state for it to bother paying for his treatment.

    Western Animation 
  • The Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes: Long before Scott Lang became the second Ant-Man, he helped crime boss Crossfire rob banks to pay for the medical treatment of Scott's Delicate and Sickly daughter, Cassie.
  • Mr. Freeze's motivation in Batman: The Animated Series (which was later retconned into the comics and carried over to Batman & Robin) is finding a cure for his wife, the pursuit of which is responsible for his transformation into An Ice Person in the first place.
  • Family Guy example when they already received healthcare, but in debt. Joe Swanson has trouble with his medical bills resorting to a loan shark after Bonnie finally gave birth. He, Peter, Quagmire, and Cleveland attempt to rob Carter's vault as their final act of desperation.
  • Titan in Invincible (2021) was an Anti-Villain who only turned to crime in order to pay for his sick daughter's treatments, and did everything he could to avoid hurting innocents while following the orders of the local crime boss.
  • In Mutant League, an old friend and former teammate of Bones' father is being blackmailed by Zalgor Prig for throwing a game. When Bones asks him why he did it, the guy explains that he had a wife once, and he was offered money for her treatment in exchange for a few bad plays. But the money was too little, too late, and she died anyway.
  • The Simpsons: When Mr. Burns and several other employers decided to cancel their health plans, some people (Flanders included, to see how serious it was) decided to break the law to obtain medicine. It's different from most (if not all) other criminal examples in that the crime wasn't to get money to buy remedies but to bring the remedies themselves. They smuggled them from Canada.

  • In 1969, psychologist Lawrence Kohlberg studied moral reasoning by presenting his subjects with a series of stories dealing with moral dilemmas and asking them why the people in the stories should (or shouldn't) have taken the actions they did. The most famous of these stories is the Heinz Dilemma, which concerns a man whose wife desperately needs a drug which a local pharmacist has developed. However, the pharmacist is trying to make money off the drug and is charging far more for it than it costs to make. In the end, the man can only scrounge up half of the money which the pharmacist explicitly refuses to accept so, and having failed to obtain the drug through legitimate means, he simply breaks into the pharmacy and steals the drug.