Chicago Med: Season 8 Episode 22's Alien Hand Syndrome Is All Too Real

It's the question that many even seasoned viewers of medical dramas might find themselves asking after a particularly outlandish episode: "Is that real?" And the recent Season 8 finale of "Chicago Med," entitled "Does One Door Close and Another One Open," has a particularly dramatic storyline involving a condition known as alien hand syndrome. It involves a patient named Fred (Bruce Nozick), who is accused of intentionally killing his wife (Jessica Tuck) by grabbing the steering wheel while he was driving and crashing their car. The cops think it was an attempted murder/suicide, but Fred says his hand did it all on its own.

Although many would probably love to discover that such a condition, in which sufferers lose independent control of their own hands, is a completely fictional fabrication, it's actually a real (albeit rare) condition that has been depicted many times in fictional stories and not just in medical dramas like "Chicago Med."

In fact, one of the syndrome's other names alludes to one of its most famous depictions in fiction, as Healthline states that it is sometimes known as "Dr. Strangelove syndrome." This name comes from the classic comedy directed by Stanley Kubrick. It can be caused by a tumor or some sort of external trauma in the brain as well as a stroke, and there is no cure.

Chicago Med is far from the only film or TV show to depict what is also known as 'Dr. Strangelove syndrome'

While the treatment of alien hand syndrome in the recent Season 8 finale of "Chicago Med" represents a theoretically medically plausible depiction of the condition, most characters suffering from it in film and television don't really fit that bill.

The most famous alien hand syndrome sufferer is likely Dr. Strangelove (Peter Sellers) in "Dr. Strange Love or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb." Dr. Strangelove possesses a black-gloved hand that is always doing Nazi salutes and other actions supposedly without its owner's permission — a reference to real-life German Nazis recruited by the US government after World War II. This is more of a satirical device than a medical one, and we never learn the precise cause of Strangelove's condition.

Ash (Bruce Campbell) in "Evil Dead II" also experiences a form of alien hand syndrome, but one that is caused by a Deadite and actually continues on after his hand has been physically detached via chainsaw from his arm. There is no medical precedent for such a scenario known to science. Other horror movies to draw inspiration from the alien hand concept include "The Hands of Orlac" and "Idle Hands," neither of which are particularly medically plausible either. In real life, the condition tends to be much less dramatic, although it can cause significant frustration and confusion for the sufferer. 

All this is to say, if you assumed after watching the latest "One Chicago" series entry that alien hand syndrome is an invention of the writers, you were mistaken.