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"You didn't really want to join the Black Order, Suman… you chose to become an exorcist to pay a treatment for you daughter's rare disease."

In countries that have little or no public health-care system, the financial cost of an medical intervention or treatment can increase very rapidly. And a situation where a vital operation can't be performed because of a lack of money is just what the Rule of Drama needs. Thus, if a story takes place in such countries (or even in countries with a social security) it is not unusual for one of the characters to be motivated by a sibling or friend afflicted by some rare degenerative disease. Since the doctors won't give any treatment if they are not paid cash beforehand (the rarer the disease, the more expensive the treatment), this character will have no choice but to participate in some game, tournament, traffic or simply work night and day, anything that will earn him enough money for the treatment. Failure may result in a Dead Little Sister, Missing Mom, Disappeared Dad, and the likes.

This trope is often a case of Did Not Do the Research but can just as well be Truth in Television depending on the case.

In the US at least it is illegal to deny care, even if the patient can't pay, but these laws often only apply to stabilizing a patient who needs emergency care. Some things are classed as aesthetic (fixing a cleft palate) and therefore optional, and some problems come up with organ transplants and certain pricey cancer treatments (which may or may not be deemed "experimental" treatments).

It is also often an optional treatment or a procedure that requires a specialized doctor to be brought in for any chance of success, skirting the law in that they're not refusing to give care because the patient is indigent, but not providing a specific kind of care. One also has to look at the time period involved -- some of those "duty to care" laws are relatively recent, or have had poor enforcement in the past. And in some cases, hospital administrators might believe it's cheaper to pay fines than bankrupt themselves over a particularly expensive patient.

Sister Trope of Billy Needs an Organ. Often overlaps with Justified Criminal or Sympathetic Criminal when said character engages into morally dubious, illegal, if not outright criminal acts. Obviously related to Littlest Cancer Patient, Ill Girl, Incurable Cough of Death and Soap Opera Disease. See also Signed Up for the Dental for a more personal version.

"Non criminal" Examples

Anime and Manga

  • What motivates Jono-uchi in Yu-Gi-Oh! for entering the Duelist Kingdom Tournament is to pay a treatment to his soon-to-be-blind little sister, Shizuka, with the huge reward. Double subverted as he loses in the last round, but is still essentially given the money by the winner, his best friend Yuugi.
  • The titular character of Mai-HiME tires herself out working in order to transfer her sick little brother Takumi in a hospital where he can be treated properly.
  • In Hajime no Ippo, Alexander Volg Zangief comes in Japan to earn money from professional boxing and help his ill and poor mother in Russia. Unfortunately, he fails.
  • In Toriko Takimaru's motivation for retrieving the Century Soup (the MacGuffin of one arc) is to use the money he'll get for retrieving it to buy his mentor Aimaru a cure for the numerous illnesses he's been infected with (since his ability is to absorb illness, which eventually took its toll).
  • The main motivation of the Takakura siblings in Mawaru Penguindrum is to find a cure for Himari's illness after she comes back from the dead in the first episode. This goes double for Kanba, who has several shady contacts and a Deal with the Devil with Sanetoshi just to get the money for the cure.
  • Black Jack invokes this a few times; since Black Jack is operating illegally in the first place, he can charge any fee he likes, and some characters do indeed wind up doing things they never would have considered otherwise to pay the money. He, as the Guile Hero that he is, mostly uses this to either teach these people important lessons or help them correct their mistakes.
  • Suman Dark in D.Gray-man halfheartedly became an Exorcist to pay for his daughter's treatement. When he betrays the Order to save his life and be able to see his family again, it doesn't end well for him.
  • In Duel Masters, Benny Ha-ha tells one of these stories in an effort to convince Shobu to forfeit. It's a lie. (In the original version, it's a generic young girl; in the dub, it's young Mimi.)
  • In the Full Metal Panic! novels, it turns out that Kurz Weber uses a good part of his Mithril payments to foot the hospital bills of a girl who was severely wounded in one of his missions. The mission where the target was the assassin who killed Kurz's parents when he was a teen, more exactly.

Comic Books

  • It often was Spider-Man's motivation himself - his aunt needs medicine or an operation.


  • In Stephen King's The Running Man (published under the pen name Richard Bachman), Richards signs up for the Games to get money to get his daughter medical care.

Tabletop Games

  • This is one of the stock Melodramatic Hooks for Feng Shui, and often sees use with characters like Killers and Thieves (though any character type can get stuck with this).

Video Games

  • Buying medicine for his sister Castille is what motivates Walnut in Phantom Brave.
  • Dhalsim's motivation for entering the Street Fighter tournament is to use the prize money to buy medicine for his village.
  • Art of Fighting 2, has King enter the King of Fighters to win the money she needs to fund her kid brother, Jean's operation. She doesn't win, however, Ryo and Robert pool their winnings and fund the operation for her as thanks for helping them save Yuri the year before.
    • This carries over in the King of Fighters series, which is an alternate continuity of both the Fatal Fury and Art of Fighting continuities. King originally enters the tournanent to pay for Jean's operation, using her winnings in subsequent showings to pay for his continued treatment. The women's team '96 and 99 ending, is a homage to the AoF 2 ending which has either Mai or Kasumi (96) or Mai and Mary (99) combine their share of the winnings to surprise King by flying Jean to their location so she could see him.

Western Animation

  • In My Little Pony Friendship Is Magic Applejack wants to go to the Grand Galloping Gala to set up shop there and raise enough money to, among other things, buy a new hip for Granny Smith.

Justified Criminal / Sympathetic Criminal examples

Anime and Manga

  • One episode of Samurai Champloo has a person who steals to get money to pay for medicine for his ailing mother.
  • Also happens in Cowboy Bebop, or which SC is some kind of Spiritual Successor: a thief named Rocco and his friends plan to make big heists to pay for his blind sister Stella's operation. It ends just as badly for the thieves, although at least here they were actually able to get the cure for Stella, so their death wasn't totally in vain.
  • In Hana no Ko Lunlun, a skilled pickpocket joins a group of thieves to get the money for his son's treatment. It fails big time and the kid dies anyway.
  • Weiss Kreuz has Ran "Aya" Fujimiya becoming a Hitman with a Heart and taking up even more works than his fellow Kritiker companions so he can pay for his younger sister Aya's hospital bills. In one episode he gets involved into a Deadly Game and finds an opponent with a similar predicament.

Comic Books

  • This was the motivation given by the Vulture once for robbing a bank, to pay for his granddaughter's operation. Spider-Man brings him in, anyway but gives the money to the girl's mother. (The bank manager was an asshole, so it all works out fine.)


  • The whole premise of John Q, a (rather Anvilicious for many) critic of the American health-care system. After failing to earn enough money to operate his son, he Takes A Third Option and takes the hospital hostage, demanding a free treatment. The protagonist's actual plan is a Thanatos Gambit to get himself killed by the police and then have his own heart harvested for his son. He fails, but by that point the public has become sympathetic to him: he gets a low jail time and the boy is operated on and saved.
  • Dog Day Afternoon. One of the reasons that Sonny robbed the bank was to get money to pay for a friend's sex change operation.
  • Catch That Kid. A group of children rob a high-security bank to pay for surgery for the father of one of the kids.
  • Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance has the main character kidnap a child for ransom in order to pay for a kidney transplant for his sister. It goes to hell from there.
  • In Spider Man 3, Flint Marko steals to pay for medical treatment for his critically ill daughter, Penny.
  • The French film Yamakasi has this for a premise. A small boy gets hurt trying to imitate the famous Parkour group and needs very expensive surgery which his family is too poor to afford. So the Yamakasi decide to apologize to the family by robbing some very rich people and paying for the surgery, doing awesome stunts in the process. A most blatant example of They Just Didn't Care since in the French healthcare system you need not go to such extreme lengths to get a treatment.
  • The title character of The Killer takes on a final assassination job in order to pay for the corneal surgery of a woman who he accidentally blinded in the movie's first shootout. The plot ensues when his handler's boss, Wong Hoi, decides to take out a Contract on the Hitman rather than pay him.
  • Andrew from the film Chronicle commits robbery to pay for his cancer stricken mother's medication.

Live-Action TV

  • There's a whole season arc of "Friday Night Lights" around this--Mindy's pregnancy isn't going well, but lacking health insurance, Billy can't afford to get her hospitalized and ensure she and the baby are stable. So what does he do? He starts stripping cars for money.
  • Psych subverts this: One episode was centered around a sufferer of Van Wilder's Disease, a disease that required regular blood transfusions. Naturally, the murderer had no health insurance and a rare blood type, so he killed people for their blood and robbed blood banks for his own healthcare.
  • Flashpoint episode "Thicker Than Blood". A man's son has leukemia. He robs a credit union in order to get enough money to pay for his son's bone marrow transplant.
    • Also in the episode "First in Line", a man is informed by his hospital that that a donor heart is available for his dying daughter, only to discover the heart will be given to someone else because of a mix-up. He takes a hospital wing hostage, demanding that his daughter receive the transplant.

Video Games

  • This is Rowd's motivation in Suikoden II to join the ranks of The Caligula LucaBlight's Quirky Miniboss Squad.
  • In Fire Emblem: The Blazing Blade, Dorcas joins up with a group of bandits to earn money for medicine for his Ill Girl wife. Fortunately, Lyn is there to straighten him out.
    • This is part of Castor's motivation for swindling in the Fire Emblem Akaneia games. During part one, he needs medicine for his sick mother, leading Caeda to recruit him into Marth's army. Unfortunately, his sister had the same idea by selling herself to a slave trader. This led to her demise, and Castor to keep swindling in order to prevent another similar tragedy.

Web Comics

  • This is how a rape is "commissioned" in Concession. Ironically, the ill girl dies that very night.

Western Animation

  • The Simpsons: When Mr. Burns and several other employers decided to cancel their health plans, some people (Flanders included, to see how serious it was) decided to break the law to obtain medicine. It's different from most (if not all) other criminal examples is that the crime wasn't to get money to buy remedies but to bring the remedies. They smuggled them from Canada.
  • The Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes: Long before Scott Lang became the second Ant-Man, he helped crime boss Crossfire rob banks to pay for the medical treatment of his (Scott's) Ill Girl daughter, Cassie.
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