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Is Malingering Or Pretending to Be Sick An Issue In Nigerian Courts?

As a result of the peculiar, irregular, or not straightforwardly ways of systems and institutions in Nigeria the environment remains an anomaly.

The Nigerian judiciary is an example of this anomalous ways where in criminal matters a defendant on trial, a lawyer on a case, or a trial judge on a sudden basis, will report being sick and will not show up in court. Yes, it is true.

Especially in the case of a defendant of high status in the society, he or she can easily get medical report issued by a medical doctor, instructing the court that the defendant-patient is not well enough to appear in court, and some of these letters of medical excuse have been known to be written by compromised physicians.

In some cases, the medical excuse letters to the courts contains very serious and exaggerated symptoms with no average time or duration for the defendant to be well enough to resume trial.

In fact, there are occasions when a legitimately practicing physician advice the court that the sickness is so serious that the treatment should take place in a foreign country since there are no good hospitals in the whole of Nigeria, including the Doctor’s place of practice. Good God!

Whereby some judges suspect or speculate whether a medical report was written in good fate, some defendants who are supposed to be on “bed rest” will come into the courtroom with the support of a cane, some in a wheelchair or other forms of mobility aids.

In situations like these, the question of malingering is raised.

But Psychologists and psychiatrists don’t want to overlook any actual physical or psychological conditions in a person, as such malingering is often hard to diagnose.

Malingering is the faking of a sickness for an ulterior motive, personal gain or trying to avoid something unpleasant like a criminal case and legal action.

Malingers are known to engage in producing false physical or psychological symptoms or exaggerating existing symptoms with the expectations of being rewarded in some way.

Malingering is not a clinical or psychiatric disorder, and it is not due to psychological illness.

Malingering is not like what is called Munchausen syndrome, a type of a mental disorder in which a person repeatedly and deliberately acts as if they have a physical or psychological illness when they are not actually sick.

To detect malingerers in the context of a criminal case or workplace which is essentially about being absent and citing illness or injury there are certain ways a psychologist especially can assist the courts.

An independent medical doctor, psychiatrist or psychologist should be retained by the court for a fee and the clinician as they are all called, will do a follow-up exam to check for inconsistencies between someone’s description of their symptoms and what the doctor finds during an examination.

The clinician through an open-ended interview approach will try to get a timeline of any behavioral, emotional, or social affairs that the person has being involved with.

The clinician, a clinical psychologist especially who uses different testing tools, needs to assess if the subject has an anti-social personality disorder, meaning a long-term pattern of exploiting, or violating the rights of others, a pattern of acting hilarious and charming, flattering others, manipulating other people’s emotions, exhibiting arrogance, irritability, deceitfulness, and showing lack of remorse.

Again, for the court systems in Nigeria to remain healthy, functional, and productive, issues of malingering in defendants must be addressed professionally. Unscrupulous behaviors from doctors, magistrates, registrars, and judges that manifest in court settings can be reduced with ethical behavior, time management, and stress reduction trainings.

There is need to monitor behaviors of possible criminal medical malpractice among doctors.

Whether it is defendant, a judge or doctor that is involved in misconduct such acts must be exposed followed by real consequences for the purpose of general deterrence and enhancing the criminal justice system.

John Egbeazien Oshodi who was born in Uromi, Edo State in Nigeria, is an American based Police/Prison Scientist and Forensic/Clinical/Legal Psychologist. A government Consultant on matters of forensic-clinical adult/child psychological services in the USA; Chief Educator and Clinician at the Transatlantic Enrichment and Refresher Institute, an Online Lifelong Center for Personal, Professional and Career Development. A former Interim Associate Dean/Assistant Professor at the Broward College, Florida. The Founder of the Dr. John Egbeazien Oshodi Foundation, Center for Psychological Health and Behavioral Change in African settings. In 2011, he introduced the State-of-the-Art Forensic Psychology into Nigeria through N.U.C and the Nasarawa State University where he served in the Department of Psychology as an Associate Professor. The Development Professor and International Liaison Consultant at the African University of Benin, and a Virtual Faculty at the ISCOM University, Benin of Republic. Founder of the Proposed Transatlantic Egbeazien University (TEU) of Values and Ethics, a digital project of Truth, Ethics, Openness. Author of over 40 academic publications/creations, at least 200 public opinion writeups on African issues, and various books.

Prof John Egbeazien Oshodi, a forensic psychologist based in the United States, wrote in via transeuniversity@gmail.com

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