Feature Archive

WebMD Survey: The Lies We Tell Our Doctors

45% of WebMD Readers Don't Tell Their Doctors the (Whole) Truth

By Daniel DeNoon
WebMD Feature

Reviewed By Brunilda Nazario, MD

Sept. 21, 2004 -- Do you lie to your doctor? There's about a 50-50 chance you do, a WebMD survey shows.

See what our readers say in part 3 of our three-part series.

What WebMD Readers Say

WebMD asked members of our various message board communities to talk about lying to their doctors. Here are some of the replies. Members are identified only by their screen names.

Craftyone01: I trust my doctor it's the insurance company I don't trust. ... I do lie to my doc about how much I smoke. ... Oh, and another thing I will lie about is where an accident happened, such as my son broke his arm at the neighbor's house. Simple accident, he fell. I learned never to tell the doc or hospital it happened anywhere but at home. Your insurance company will insist you sue your neighbor for the medical care.

Psycho2d: For me, it's not that I would lie because of the doctor or because I don't trust them. It's more so out of fear of hearing what the truth may be. If I admit to something really bad, what if they tell me something really bad? I must make it clear; I have never been in the situation before. I never lied to a doctor.

Ianneandbabyj: Short answer: Yes, I've lied to the doctor when I wanted to avoid 'advice.' Not really a lecture. The times I've lied have only been when I claim to know more about the subject at hand (and how it relates to MY particular baby) than I believe that the doctor does. It may not be the case, but it doesn't really matter to me. I didn't feel I needed her advice on a particular issue, so I just avoiding discussing the topic with her.

Sweet48801: I did when I was younger because I was scared to tell my doc certain things, like the fact that I was sexually active. I lost my virginity when I was 18 and I didn't tell my regular doc until I was 21! However, my ob-gyn knew, obviously. I never told them either, but they knew when they did my annual Pap and pelvic exam. So they asked and I told the truth. I never told my doc because I was nervous they'd tell my mom. She's always been nosy and I know legally they couldn't tell her, but she has her ways of finding stuff out sometimes. Nowadays, I don't think I lie to my doc anymore, not that I can think of at least.

Wowax: We are pretty open with our doctor, but we do not feel comfortable discussing the fact that we (my wife and I) have multiple sex partners. We just aren't very comfortable with that. We are safe and tested clean, so we don't need a lecture about it -- nor do we want him to feel uncomfortable treating us.

CelticKaeDee: Never. In fact, I'm uncomfortable if I go to a doctor that doesn't ask very many questions about my health/sexual history. I feel the more they know, the more likely they will be armed with the knowledge to help me.

Taagf: Why waste time and money going to a health care provider and then not tell them the truth?

Nephpt: For me I may not disclose everything that I should to my doctor -- not that I don't trust him/her. I'm just embarrassed about it and worried how he will react. In some cases I want to avoid a lecture and I feel guilty about not following my doctor's instructions.

Jturner101: I remember going to the doctor when I was young and the old doctors would give you all the time you needed to talk about how you felt or family problems. Now the doctors seem to get very 'edgy' if you make them sit and listen to you. Back then, the old doctors made you strip naked for a physical. Now you keep your clothes on. [But you] still have to drop your pants. These old doctors I speak of are mostly dead now. My mother always told me to tell the doctor all that was wrong with me, because they can't read my mind. So I did. Today I might think twice before telling everything to my doctor. It seems they are out for money and time is money.

Heathernparker: I have lied when the doctor is talking parenting advice, but not when I am seeking medical advice.


See what our readers say in part 1 and 2 of our three-part series.

Part 1: The Lies We Tell Our Doctors
Part 2: What the Experts Say


Published Sept. 21, 2004.


SOURCES: Editorial Survey on WebMD Health, "Why Do You Lie to Your Doctor?" Sept. 3, 2004. Arthur Caplan, PhD, chair, department of medical ethics; and director, Center for Bioethics, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia. Robert Klitzman, MD, assistant clinical professor; and co-director, Center for Bioethics, Columbia University, New York; and author, Mortal Secrets: Truth and Lies in the Age of AIDS, Johns Hopkins University Press, 2003. David L. Roberts, MD, associate professor, internal medicine, Emory University, Atlanta; and medical director, Emory executive health program. WebMD message boards.

© 2004 webMD Inc. All rights reserved.


Last Editorial Review: 5/10/2005