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JAMA 100 Years Ago
March 14, 2001

Medical News.

Author Affiliations

JenniferReiling, Assistant Editor

JAMA. 2001;285(10):1264. doi:10.1001/jama.285.10.1264


Extraordinary Fraud—A Man Obtains His Own Death Certificate.

A man aged 35, described as a Dublin medical student, came to lodge in London and called on a doctor, minutely describing to him the symptoms of Bright's disease. He also brought urine for analysis, and it contained a large quantity of albumin. One day, when the doctor called, he appeared to be very drowsy and dangerously ill. Early on the following morning a man resembling the patient called on the doctor, but he was clean shaven and in good health, while the patient had a heavy moustache. The visitor posed as the brother of the patient, who, he said, had passed away in great suffering during the night. He was given a certificate of death. In pursuance of his usual practice the doctor visited the chamber of death. In the dimly-lighted room what appeared to be a human body was perceptable on the bed, but on examination the "corpse" proved to be a dummy composed of pillows, blankets, boots and a poker. The man who obtained the certificate, on being questioned, said: "I am the dead body," and asserted that he had committed the deception to deceive his people into the belief that he was dead. A search in his box, however, showed that he had a life policy of $1000. For having made a false declaration for the purposes of death registration, he has been sentenced to nine months' imprisonment. It appears that the man was really ill and had a high temperature, but simulated the special symptoms of Bright's disease.

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