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Malingering pain in the medicolegal context
journal contributionposted on 01.11.2004, 00:00 authored by G Mendelson, Danuta MendelsonDanuta Mendelson
Malingering—the willful, deliberate, and fraudulent feigning or exaggeration of illness—was originally described as a means of avoiding military service. In present-day clinical practice, malingering may occur in circumstances where the person wishes to avoid legal responsibility or in situations where compensation or some other benefit might be obtained. In law, the term malingering is used in relation to persons to whom military regulations apply; in other situations, malingering is regarded as fraud and may lead to charges of perjury or criminal fraud. Assertions that an individual is malingering are particularly common in clinical settings where the complaint is of a subjective nature and is not accompanied by objectively demonstrable organic abnormalities. This may occur in relation to complaints of pain in situations where the person is entitled to receive pain-contingent compensation or is suing for damages. In this article, we will review the literature on pain and malingering and discuss attempts that have been made to develop methods and guidelines for the detection of malingered pain. There are, however, no valid clinical methods of assessment of possible malingering of pain. In our view, the ultimate issue of the veracity of the plaintiff is for the Court to decide, and epithets such as “malingerer” have no place in reports prepared for legal purposes by health care professionals.