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Unexpected Positive

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Someone takes a medical exam for some reason other than genuinely wondering about his/her health. Surprisingly, the test is positive. (Meaning they have whatever condition they were tested for.) Depending on the show and the condition, this can be Played for Laughs or Played for Drama. In the latter case, it may be a Lethal Diagnosis. If it's a pregnancy test, it may involve But I Can't Be Pregnant!.


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    Anime and Manga 
  • At the end of the final episode of the first season of I Can't Understand What My Husband Is Saying, Kaoru ends up taking a pregnancy test. Initially it appears negative, but when she shows it to Hajime it suddenly turns positive.

    Comic Books 
  • The Swiss French-language graphic novel Jo is about AIDS. The (teenage girl) title character meets a boy, Laurent, who is tormented by the memories of his beloved brother who died of AIDS and he is himself afraid of having the disease. She decides that they will be tested together to reasure him. To their greatest shock, Jo herself is diagnosed with AIDS and the rest of the book is about her dealing with the disease until she dies.

  • Chapter 10 of the Superjail! fanfic All in the Family has Cherice, who thinks she may be pregnant. The Mistress decides to come along with her to the doctor for some tests, because no one else will. Guess who turns out to be pregnant.

    Film Live-Action 
  • In Baby Mama Angie's pregnancy ruse gets her into the obstetrician's office, and she discovers that she actually is pregnant.
  • Played for tragedy in Kids. A character who has only had sex once has an HIV test to encourage her promiscuous friend to do the same. Guess which one's positive.
  • Love Story. Stymied by their failure to conceive, Oliver and Jenny go to the doctor for complete physicals. As it turns out, Jenny is in fact infertile, but the battery of tests is how it's also discovered that she has cancer.

  • In the Gaunt's Ghosts series, regimental chief medic Dorden gives himself a full-spectrum examination more or less to guilt their chief priest Zweil into taking the same tests. Zweil is fine, but Dorden has an incurable cancer.
  • In The Dolphins of Pern, while visiting Paradise Cove Hold, one of the local dolphinsnote  tells green rider Mirrim that she's pregnant. The locals confirm that the dolphins can detect such thing with echo location, and wouldn't blurt out such a thing if it weren't true. Mirrim is stunned: She'd lost several pregnancies previously because she didn't know she was pregnant in time to take precautionsnote . Later books show she gave birth to a healthy son.

    Live-Action TV 
  • In 7th Heaven, Mary must undergo a physical before she leaves for basketball camp that summer. The doctor ropes Annie into having one too, and this is how she finds out she's pregnant with the twins. (But not before an episode-long assumption that Mary is the pregnant one due to the doctor mixing up their results.)
  • Donald Ressler from The Blacklist decides to return to the Bureau after Cooper works to reunite the team. During his time away, he's fallen on hard times which he's been coping with using controlled substances. Since he knows he can't pass the mandatory drug test, he asks the recently married Agent Park for her urine. He passes the test, but the doctor tells him he tested positive for cancer. Ressler tells Park this and she agrees to see an oncologist after her next case. That case ends with her hospitalized and the subsequent medical examination reveals that she was pregnant, but lost the baby. note 
  • The Brady Bunch: Carol lets the doctor check her tonsils to show Cindy that it won't hurt. Turns out Carol and Cindy both need their tonsils out.
  • Call the Midwife: During a tuberculosis screening campaign in season two Sister Bernadette has a chest X-Ray taken in order to reassure a little girl that it is safe. When the plates are developed, it turns out that Sister Bernadette is suffering from the disease and she needs to be sent to a specialist TB hospital to recover.
  • Subverted on Continuum. In "So Do Our Minutes Hasten", Alec shows off his new health-monitoring wrist bracelet, the Halo, to the Piron board. He convinces a naysayer of its value by having him try it out, and identifying markers for colon cancer. In private, however, he admits that the "data" it collected was all guesswork and information from the man's company insurance files, and he doesn't have a working prototype yet.
  • In Coupling, Sally buys three pregnancy tests because she doesn't know what a negative test looks like and asks Susan and Jane to take one each. Of the three of them, it's the apparently infertile Susan who turns out to be pregnant.
  • On an episode of Diff'rent Strokes, Mr. Drummond purchased a device that measured stress on his doctor's advice. Sure enough, his rating was high, but when the kids goofed around with it, Willis' was off the chart (he was coping with schoolwork, extracurricular activities, running for class office, etc).
  • During an episode of Doogie Howser, M.D., the senior Dr. Howser flashed back to a time when he was examining his son, who had asked him to demonstrate to him. Upon examining his abdomen, the boy yelped in pain, and the horrified Dr. Howser realized he'd just discovered that his son had leukemia.
  • An episode of ER had Carter demonstrating to several medical students how to examine a patient's lymph nodes—only to discover a lump in the neck of the student he was examining. After doing a biopsy, he gently informed him that he had lymphoma.
  • On Frasier, Niles gets a toothache, and in order to avoid going to the dentist and having a cavity drilled, he decides to get a full physical, on the off chance that the pain could indicate a more serious condition. Everyone else spends the entire episode pointing out that's a complete overreaction to a simple problem. In the end, Niles finally comes around and admits he was being irrational, just before he's informed that he has a serious heart condition.
  • The Golden Girls: Dorothy takes a hearing test to show Sophia it's no big deal. Sophia does not need a hearing aid; Dorothy does.
  • Growing Pains:
    • Maggie is doing a series of news reports about regular medical checkups, and thus undergoes all the usual tests. This is how she discovers she's pregnant.
    • In another episode, Jason allows a pediatrician to examine him to show a teenage boy it's no big deal. This is how his hernia is discovered.
  • In the How to Get Away with Murder episode "It's All My Fault", Connor and Oliver are getting back together after a bad breakup. Oliver wants Connor to get an HIV test before they have sex again and decides that it would be romantic to get tested together. Connor works himself into a panic over all of the risks he's taken. Connor tests negative. Oliver tests positive.
  • I Love Lucy: Lucy forces Ricky to go to the eye doctor where they find out that his eyes are perfectly's Lucy who can't see the eye chart correctly! In typical Lucy fashion, wackiness ensues.
  • On The Jack Benny Show, Jack goes with a neighborhood boy to the dentist because the boy is scared. Guess which one needs a tooth pulled?
  • On Jane the Virgin, after a distracted doctor artificially inseminated her (rather than giving her the routine Pap smear she came in for), Jane faints on the bus, and ends up at the emergency room. The doctor or nurse tells her that she's pregnant. Since Jane is a virgin, she and her mother both laugh at him, so he has Jane drink water and performs another urine test, right in front of them.
  • In the M*A*S*H episode "Blood Brothers", a soldier played by Patrick Swayze offers to donate his blood for a transfusion for his wounded buddy, confidently assuring the doctors that there should be no issues since they have the same blood type. As a formality, Hawkeye and B.J. run blood tests on both of them anyway and discover that Swayze's character has leukemia.
  • The Nanny:
    • The daughter Gracie only had the flu, but Fran had to have her tonsils out.
    • Oldest daughter Maggie thinks she's pregnant and goes to a gynecologist for a test. It turns out negative, but when the doctor lists some of the signs Fran interrupts to say she's been feeling nauseous and tired... Subverted two episodes later, when it turns out she wasn't really pregnant.
  • In an episode of The Office (US), Jim takes a blood-pressure test to prove to Dwight and Pam that he's not lying about being attracted to his new co-worker. But everything is forgotten when the test shows he has high blood pressure.
  • On One Life to Live, Blair was suffering from dizzy spells, but terrified of going to the doctor and finding out what might be wrong. On-again, off-again paramour Max offered to go with her. Sure enough, Blair only had an allergy, while Max was found to have an aneurysm.
  • Balki from Perfect Strangers had to get a toothache looked at. Larry went with him for support and had to calm him down when the actual exam took place. Larry decided to let the dentist look at his own teeth to prove that it was no big deal. The dentist finds a cavity.
  • In season 1 episode 11 of Queer as Folk (US), after Ted discovers that one of the guys he's been with is now HIV positive, Emmett gets tested along with Ted out of solidarity. The clinic gets back to Ted with the good news right away but tells Emmett to come in again on Monday, making Emmett sure he must be positive. It's a Subversion. Emmett's negative. There's just a problem with his method of payment.
  • One of the "Song Memories" sketches on Saturday Night Live had one player remember the time he had to take a drug test for work. As a habitual cocaine user, he asked his friend for his urine and smuggled it into the test. He ends up failing the test because his friend does coke too.
  • In Scrubs, there was an episode with a hypochondriac patient who demanded every test available. Eventually, as they were running out of tests and trying to convince the guy he was obviously perfectly healthy, Dr. Cox sets him up with an extremely uncomfortable test for a one-in-a-million condition in the hopes that he'll go away. It unexpectedly turned out positive.
  • Strong Medicine When the hospital staff was subjected to drug testing, Peter worried that he might test positive given his occasional pot-smoking. He didn't, but Lana tested positive for cocaine, stunning her as she had long since given up that lifestyle. It turns out the medium used for testing—human hair, because toxic substances can linger in the hair long after a person has last used the drug—could also easily pick up outside substances. Lana lived in a poor neighborhood where drug use was frequent and the cocaine particles in the air had clung to her hair (and it being African-American hair made them even more likely to stick than to hair of a different ethnicity and texture), making her test positive even though she no longer used drugs.
  • In That's So Raven, Raven and Corey go to the dentist. Corey's scared, so (after having a vision in which one of the pair is shown to need a filling) Raven gets in the chair to show him that it's not so bad. Guess who needs the filling?

    Western Animation 
  • In The Simpsons, Homer and Marge are mistakenly assessed as negligent parents and have to attend a parenting class to get the kids back. At the graduation ceremony they withhold Marge's diploma because she tested positive for crack and PCP, to her shock. One quick retest proves that the first one was a false positive, and the teacher gladly gives Marge her diploma.
  • Archer:
    • A former escort of Archer's demands that he take a paternity test, because she thinks he's the father of her child. Archer worries about the result, so he swaps his DNA sample with one he takes from Cyril. Turns out Cyril was actually the father, but the ruse puts Archer on the hook for child support.
    • Mallory, Archer's mother, goes in for a chest x-ray after finding a lump fearing she has breast cancer. She doesn't but when Archer leans on the x-ray machine and accidentally scans himself, the resultant photograph shows that he does have breast cancer.

    Real Life 
  • John Holmes got an AIDS test to encourage other porn stars to do so. He tested positive.
  • A reporter for the Australian 60 Minutes had this happen during a story on cancer.
  • Debbie Allen based an episode of A Different World off an experience she had when she was college—when a friend of her feared she was pregnant, she accompanied her to the doctor and took the test as well. However, the positive Debbie received was very unexpected, as she hadn't even had sex as yet. (the results were mishandled)
  • One famous story on Reddit recounts a male user deciding to take a pregnancy test for laughs, only for a positive result to show. One commenter informed him that, in rare cases, testicular cancer could produce a chemical that would cause a pregnancy test to report a false positive, and he should get checked out right away. The original poster later reported that he did so, and he did in fact have testicular cancer. Fortunately, it was detected early enough that doctors were able to remove it without incident.