Doogie Howser Gone Wrong: Teen Arrested for Impersonating a Doctor

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A teenager in Australia has been arrested after allegedly impersonating a doctor for several months.

The 17-year-old had been spotted roaming the wards at Royal Adelaide Hospital wearing scrubs and a name badge, with a stethoscope around his neck, reports Sky News.

The youth  – whom hospital staff called “Dr Who” — would walk around with a clipboard, reading patients’ medical notes and talking to people, according to Sky News. He was said to be confident and versed in medical language, and therefore believable as a medical professional.

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He had also been spotted on several occasions at a different medical center in the city, reports the Daily Mail, and had even been seen on the city’s streets posing as a doctor and offering first aid to members of the public. He had been expelled as an ambulance volunteer earlier last year for “inappropriate behavior,” notes the Mail.

He got away with it for four months, despite being known to authorities. In December the state health department sent a memo to hospital staff warning them about the “bogus clinician,” and South Australia Health chief executive David Swan told the Adelaide Advertiser that the teen had quickly been identified and removed from Royal Adelaide Hospital each time he entered a ward.

Back then, police said they had spoken to the boy but were powerless to arrest him because he hadn’t committed a crime, reports the Daily Telegraph.

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But what had previously been a harmless charade took a disturbing turn this week when, at the hospital, he allegedly assisted a 12-year-old girl who had fallen off her scooter, and gave her an unauthorized prescription drug, as Sky News reports.

He was charged with administering a prescription drug, aggravated assault and identity theft, reports the Daily Mail.

The story drew comparisons with the movie Catch Me if you Can, in which a con man successfully fakes careers as a doctor, lawyer and airline pilot. And it’s not the first time Steven Spielberg’s 2002 hit has apparently inspired a real-life fraudster. In 2009, a teenage boy was questioned by police after fooling British aviation executives into believing he was a tycoon about to launch his own airline, reports the Telegraph. And last year, a Florida teen was arrested after impersonating both a police officer and a doctor, at one point even giving CPR to a patient, ABC News reports.

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