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Netflix “Afflicted” Series Deliberately Misrepresents Chronic Illness

The stars of the new Netflix series, Afflicted, are up in arms about how their conditions were misrepresented. The documentary series follows six people living with chronic illnesses.

A Los Angeles-based documentary company, Doc Shop, which works with National Geographic, CNN, Discovery, A&E, AMC, and Travel channel, produced the series.

According to all of the people portrayed in the documentary, the producers promised them a compassionate look at chronic illness. Every participant in the series had to have a diagnosis from a physician and be determined mentally healthy by a behavioral health specialist before filming started.

The participants collectively responded in an article posted on Medium. Individually, others wrote blogs about their experience or posted a live YouTube video.

We were all told that we would be participating in a project that would show our lives and our struggles with illness through a “compassionate lens.” We participated because our diagnoses are misunderstood and stigmatized. We thought that revealing some of the most intimate moments of our lives would lead to greater public understanding. We hoped that with it might come investment in research to find biomarkers and better treatments. We never fathomed that we were participating in a project that would instead expose us and our communities to further ridicule and disbelief.

MediumThe Truth Behind Netflix’s ‘Afflicted’

I stopped watching the series after the first episode because it was so clear that the producers went for sensationalism over realism. They consistently showed the people suffering from severe conditions as mentally ill and having psychosomatic illnesses.

Jamison Hill, a writer with ME, wrote a blog post about his experience.  

One such episode was devoted to “Identity,” suggesting that those of us with chronic illnesses spend so much time in poor health we become consumed by the lifestyle and don’t know how to live any other way, which is a completely asinine point to make. It’s unfair to categorize people like this because they “become” their illness. If giving all of your surplus energy to try to make yourself better is “becoming” an illness, then sure we “become” it, but if we’re talking about finding some sort of clandestine enjoyment or comfort in living as a sick person because we don’t know how to live any other way, well, that’s one of the most idiotic things I’ve ever heard; that’s not us.

https://jamisonwrites.com/2018/08/20/netflix-and-hill-the-true-story-behind-afflicted/

Jake Sidwell, who has chronic Lyme disease, posted an hour-long YouTube video about the making of the show and how unfortunate the experience has been. In it, he discusses questions posed by people who saw the documentary. 

Scientists with deep knowledge of the research literature — including several from the Open Medicine Foundation’s “Community Symposium on the Molecular Basis of ME/CFS” at Stanford, which the film crew did shoot — were either not interviewed or their interviews ended up on the cutting room floor. Instead, Afflicted frequently relies heavily on the skeptical voices of “experts” who have no relevant professional or academic expertise in our diseases.

MediumThe Truth Behind Netflix’s ‘Afflicted’

“Acknowledging” skepticism doesn’t make people take us more seriously, especially when the evidence of their biological basis – both my abnormal lab results and the broader research – is purposefully excluded. There’s a big difference between acknowledging the skeptical perspective and, say, devoting three entire hour-long episodes to psychobabble sound bites about it, which is precisely what the producers did.

https://jamisonwrites.com/2018/08/20/netflix-and-hill-the-true-story-behind-afflicted/

Did you see Afflicted? What was your reaction to it?

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