The dangers of lying to your doctor

By Jodi Mohrmann - Managing Editor of special projects
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CLEARWATER, Fla. - Fibbing is far from what endocrinologist Dr. Munira Siddiqui wants to hear in her office.

"It can be very detrimental to your health," said Siddiqui with Morton Plant Mease Hospital in Clearwater, Florida.

Siddiqui treats diabetics, so she has to know exactly how much sugar they eat so she can prescribe the right amount of insulin.

"By adjusting your insulin based on blood sugars that are false, I could have done harm to this patient," Siddiqui said.

She's even had to fire a fibbing patient.

"They were actually making up their blood sugar numbers and the reason why they did it is that they knew I wouldn't give them samples if they would not have blood sugars when they came in to see me," Siddiqui said.

Dr. Valeria Moore, a psychologist at Baycare Hospitals, also deals with dishonesty, a lot.

"Sometimes there's outright, blatant lies." she said.

The red flags go up when the eye contact goes away. Huffing, grunting, fidgeting, and re-asking a question are also signs of fiction.

"Well, what do you mean by that? Do you mean how much alcohol did I have yesterday or did you mean ever?" Moore said.

She says smoking, alcohol, and illicit drugs are what most of her patients lie about.

"We're running the risk of them going through withdrawal in the hospital, experiencing DT's, where they are at risk for seizure activity, perceptual disturbance and if we don't know that we can't treat it and that puts the patient in very, very dangerous position as well as the other staff and other patients," Moore explained.

Moore says they lie because they're afraid of being judged. Siddiqui's patients may lie because they fear they could lose insurance coverage.

A Cleveland Clinic survey showed that 28 percent of patients admitted to lying. But in a Wall Street Journal report, doctors say the real number is 77 percent.

"I do need people to be truthful, I need people to be honest, I need them to be compliant, in order to help them," Siddiqui said.

"There are always things that we want to hold and keep to ourselves," added Moore.

Apparently the lying goes both ways. A study published in the Journal of Health Affairs last year found that over one-tenth of more than 1,800 physicians surveyed had told patients something untrue in the previous year. More than half said they described a prognosis in a more positive manner than warranted and about 20 percent admitted to not fully disclosing a mistake to a patient due to fears of litigation.

Additional Information:

There are a variety of lies we tell doctors: half-truths, white lies, lies to get medications, lies not to get medications, lies to avoid embarrassment. But most doctors agree, no matter what kind of lie it is, it could be harming you. According to one survey, 28 percent of doctors think more than half of their patients lie to them. Here are some of the most common things patients lie about:

  • Smoking: Claiming that you've stopped smoking, are smoking less, or don't smoke at all even though you do are all things your doctor needs to know. Smoking even the occasional cigarette can affect your circulation. It can also affect women who are on the pill, making them potentially more susceptible to blood clots.
  • Personal problems: Many people think their doctors are only there to treat their medical conditions, but doctors take in a lot of information when making diagnoses. If anything from your relationship to your job is making you feel stressed, depressed, or unhappy, your doctor could use that information to help you in a variety of ways.
  • Taking supplements: The CDC reports more than half of Americans currently take supplements, yet when your doctor asks "are you taking anything?" many of us respond with a "no." These supplements can impact what your doctor prescribes: for example, fish oils can thin your blood, and St. John's wort can make birth control pills less effective.
  • Safe sex: According to the Center for Sexual Health Promotion, nearly two-thirds of single people have occasional unprotected sex. Even though it may be embarrassing to talk about, your sexual history can come back to bite you. STD's like HPV and chlamydia, if not treated, can impact your reproductive organs and increase your risk for some cancers.

    (Sources: and and

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