There is a common running gag in the series House, that no matter what the symptoms of the patient are, it's never going to be lupus. Although if I remember properly in one episode it was.

Is this maybe some type of medical joke? I don't know much about medicine but I know that lupus, though not common is not that rare, so I don't think the joke makes much sense, especially in a series that shows conditions that are way-way more rare than lupus in the USA, like leprosy or genetic chimerism.

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    I believe lupus is an exclusionary diagnosis, which means if you have any symptoms of lupus and you’re not diagnosed with anything else, it’s like a fallback diagnosis. I’m not sure if it’s a joke but from House’s point of view, suggesting it’s lupus is the same as giving up, which he never does. May 25, 2019 at 18:27
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    @ToddWilcox Also, there's no cure for Lupus; that's a big no-no for House. IIRC, he gravitates towards diseases that can be cured. Very rarely does he care for a diagnosis where only quality of life can be enhanced (a result of his own masochism).
    – Charles
    May 27, 2019 at 1:00
  • @Charles: House does not care one bitabout curing patients. He diagnoses, and then his job is done. That is it. However, when dealing with time pressure, it's a waste of time to confirm a diagnose that you can't stop. Similarly, if a comet was going to crash with the Earth in a week's time, and there is nothing we can do, there's no point to finding that comet or reporting about its impact. Any effort going towards that is wasted effort since you can only stand by the sidelines and watch. Dying patients require triage, which requires choosing what you can actually fix, and not what you can't.
    – Flater
    May 27, 2019 at 9:53
  • @Flater What House cares the most about is getting the diagnosis correct. And then w.r.t. the OP, those diagnoses need to be testable within a short amount of time. That's the issue with Lupus: it can't be confirmed so quickly and easily, so it's a cop out. Also, it is worth mentioning that House's attitude towards his patients varies in later seasons. For example: the young pastor, the magician, the rockstar, the genius, and then of course, Wilson. Most people House considers to be an idiot, but there are few who he cares about (the reasons irrelevant).
    – Charles
    May 27, 2019 at 11:59

1 Answer 1


Because lupus is very hard to diagnose, as in initial stage symptoms are very generic to be considered as lupus. So either they have to test so many people for lupus or consider it as the last resort. Why House use it is being part of so many online articles, such as from The Conversation

So why is it never lupus? Is it because its symptoms make it easily mistaken for other illnesses or the difficulty of making a diagnosis? Yes and yes but surely this can’t stand in the way of Dr. House’s abilities.

Maybe lupus is invoked because it doesn’t have the option of a miracle cure at the end of the episode.

But lupus did occur in the patient in You Don't Want To Know (S04E08).

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