Afflicted is a controversial TV documentary series/reality TV series created by Netflix that shows the life of seven patients living with chronic illnesses, including poorly understood illnesses.
Patients are shown who live with a number of different chronic illnesses including mold illness, electromagnetic hypersensitivity, electrohypersensitivity and multiple chemical sensitivity, ME/CFS, Hashimoto's thyroiditis, common variable immune deficiency, mast cell activation disorder, tissue hypoxia, dysautonomia, multiple blood infections, staph infection, and Lyme disease.
Notable people[edit | edit source]
- Dan Partland - creator and executive producer
- Bekah Dinnerstein
- Jake Sidewell
- Jamison Hill
- Jill Edelstein
- Pilar Olave
Awards[edit | edit source]
Reviews[edit | edit source]
- Stream It Or Skip It: ‘Afflicted’ On Netflix, A Docuseries On Unusual Illnesses That Are Hard To Treat - Joel Keller
Controversy[edit | edit source]
Afflicted has been hugely controversial, and is widely regarded by patients, including those who took part in it, and some doctors, as portraying misinformation and increasing the stigma around certain illness. Some illness are portrayed as "bizarre" and controversial. Netflix has been asked to remove the series, and was sued by four of the patients featured. The legal case is still ongoing.
Shortly after the release of Addicted many of the patients featured protested to Netflix about how they were represented in the series and claiming it contained significant medical errors. Four patients sued, and the case has not been on decided yet.
Open letter[edit | edit source]
On Sep 18, 2018, four patients and several of their relatives and carers who featured in Afflicted sent an open letter to Netflix to protest at the finished series. The open letter was signed by Bekah’s boy and brother, Jill and her Janine, Jamison, Pillar, and over 30 doctors, film makers, advocates and writers.
Key points made in the open letter:
- Misrepresentation of patients and questionable tactics, including stating that the illness would not be presented as psychosomatic before filming and that it would be a documentary series not reality TV, arranging some of the more "questionable" medical visits, and suggesting to Jamison be drugged so he could travel when too ill to do so
- Omission or de-emphasis of patients' diagnoses and laboratory findings, including Bekah' and Pilar's diagnosis of Common Variable Immunodeficiency Disorder, which is life-threatening disease and not controversial, Bekah's positive test for Lyme disease, Jill's and Star's autoimmune disease diagnosis, Jake's tachycardia and his low blood cell counts which need regular monitoring by a hematologist/oncologist.
- Exclusion of research findings, particularly on myalgic encephalomyelitis, mast cell activation syndrome which underlies some of the patients' mold and chemical sensitivities, and chronic Lyme disease.
- Exclusion of research scientists
- Inclusion of alternative practioners while excluding prominent doctors in the relevant fields. The psychiatrist interviewed about psychosomatic illness was not a specialist in the field.
- The letter requested that Netflix remove the series
Articles and blogs[edit | edit source]
By the patients and families[edit | edit source]
- The Truth Behind Netflix’s ‘Afflicted’ -
- How Afflicted Manipulates Facts, Omits Evidence, and Insinuates Lies to Discredit Chronic Physical Illnesses - Nick Dinnerstein (Bekah's brother) with Bekah Dinnerstein
- The Problem with the Netflix series, ‘Afflicted’ - Jesse Bercowetz, with Bekah Dinnerstein
- The question that could and should have been answered - Jake Sidewell
- Netflix and Hill: The True Story Behind “Afflicted” - Jamison Hill
- Jill - Jill Maxi Edelstein
- Janine Feczko (Jill's fiancé)
- The Truth About the Most Hated “Character” In Afflicted - Pilar Olave
By advocates and allies[edit | edit source]
- Fall 2018, Netflix’s Afflicted is Inflicting Damage on the Chronically Ill ME/CFS Patient - Julie Rehmeyer
- 2018, Op-Ed: Netflix is televising prejudice against the chronically ill - Julie Rehmeyer, LA Times
- After the Afflicted freak show - Jennie Spotila, Occupy ME
By film crew[edit | edit source]
- 'Afflicted' Executive Producer Responds to Controversy, Protest Letter Signed by Lena Dunham, Monica Lewinsky - Hollywood Reporter
General[edit | edit source]
- 2018, Stars of new Netflix series about chronic illness slam the show for making them look 'crazy' - after off-camera tests proved they are sane - Natalie Rahhal, Dailymail.com
- 2018, Under the microscope - Lucas Thors, Martha's Vineyard Times
- 2018, Sorry, Netflix: we don't need another freak show - Frances Ryan, The Guardian
- "Afflicted has enraged its participants, but it wouldn’t be the first TV show to use people with disabilities as entertainment fodder"—Julie Rehmeyer
- 2018, How Netflix’s ‘Afflicted’ Failed the Chronic Illness Community - Caitlin Flynn, Huffington Post
Online presence[edit | edit source]
Learn more[edit | edit source]
See also[edit | edit source]
- Multiple chemical sensitivity
- Mold illness
- Stigma and discrimination
- Ethical issues
- Medically unexplained symptoms
- Voices from the Shadows
References[edit | edit source]
- "Afflicted | Netflix Official Site". www.netflix.com. Retrieved May 17, 2020.
- "Netflix sued over presenting Afflicted documentary subjects as 'lazy, crazy hypochondriacs'". The Independent. Aug 8, 2019. Retrieved May 17, 2020.
- Law360. "Netflix Says 'Afflicted' Subjects Signed Away Control". www.law360.com. Retrieved May 17, 2020.
- "Open Letter to Netflix Regarding the "Afflicted" Docuseries". Sep 18, 2018.
somatic symptom disorder - A psychiatric term to describe an alleged condition whereby a person's thoughts somehow cause physical symptoms. The actual existence of such a condition is highly controversial, due to a lack of scientific evidence. It is related to other psychiatric terms, such as "psychosomatic", "neurasthenia", and "hysteria". Older terms include "somatization", "somatoform disorder", and "conversion disorder". Such terms refer to a scientifically-unsupported theory that claims that a wide range of physical symptoms can be created by the human mind, a theory which has been criticized as "mind over matter" parapsychology, a pseudoscience. Although "Somatic Symptom Disorder" is the term used by DSM-5, the term "Bodily Distress Disorder" has been proposed for ICD-11. (Learn more: www.psychologytoday.com)
myalgic encephalomyelitis (ME) - A disease often marked by neurological symptoms, but fatigue is sometimes a symptom as well. Some diagnostic criteria distinguish it from chronic fatigue syndrome, while other diagnostic criteria consider it to be a synonym for chronic fatigue syndrome. A defining characteristic of ME is post-exertional malaise (PEM), or post-exertional neuroimmune exhaustion (PENE), which is a notable exacerbation of symptoms brought on by small exertions. PEM can last for days or weeks. Symptoms can include cognitive impairments, muscle pain (myalgia), trouble remaining upright (orthostatic intolerance), sleep abnormalities, and gastro-intestinal impairments, among others. An estimated 25% of those suffering from ME are housebound or bedbound. The World Health Organization (WHO) classifies ME as a neurological disease.