“I Wish I Had Breast Cancer” Campaign Ad Sparks Outrage, Org Stands Behind It

February 14, 2014  |  

Who in their right mind would long for a terminal illness? Perhaps someone with another disease perceived to have a more dismal outcome as the latest ad campaign from the UK’s Pancreatic Cancer Action organization suggests. In one campaign ad, the words “I wish I had breast cancer” are splashed next to a pallid, sickly young girl who has pancreatic cancer, a disease that has the lowest survival rate compared to other cancers, according to PRDaily,

As you can imagine, the ad campaign has been received rather negatively by representatives from other organizations. Dyleth Morgan, chief executive of Breast Cancer Campaign, told Civil Society:

“While the intention of the campaign is great, the adverts are hugely upsetting and incredibly insensitive and divisive.”

What the ad campaign is attempting to depict is that because pancreatic cancer patients have a 3 percent survival rate, many of them would be better off with breast cancer — a disease that has a survival rate of 82 percent. The public, however, was too distracted by the off-putting quote to completely grasp the ad’s concept. As Chris Askew, chief executive of Breakthrough Breast Cancer, put it:

“I’ve yet to meet a man or woman with breast cancer who would consider themselves in any way fortunate to have received a diagnosis.”

Still, Ali Stunt, CEO of the Pancreatic Cancer Action, told The Guardian that though she was well aware that the ad would rattle the masses, she still stands by its message:

“With a limited budget, it was vital that the advert would stand out and provoke thought and initiate discussion among members of the public, the media, and influencers,” she wrote. “The decision to run this campaign was not taken lightly, and we carried out a fair amount of research to understand what the likely reaction was going to be.”

Stunt says that the “I wish I had breast cancer” quote, emboldened next to a sickly Kerry Harvey, isn’t far removed from what goes through a pancreatic cancer patient’s mind:

“When faced with a 3 percent chance of surviving more than five years, it is not unreasonable to wish for a cancer with a better survival rate. This is exactly how I felt when I was diagnosed with the disease in 2007.”

Outraged, and still confounded by the ad, the public took to the organization’s Facebook page to express their disgust. “Shame on you for making cancer a contest,” one commenter with cervical cancer said. Like the Pancreatic Action Network, Harvey stands by her decision to participate in the campaign, telling the Daily Mail:

“I know I upset a lot of people by saying what I did, but it’s true. If I had breast cancer rather than pancreatic cancer, it is almost certain I wouldn’t now be dying. Instead I’ve been told I’ve only got four to five months to live.

“Hopefully the campaign will lead to more money being spent on research into pancreatic cancer. It won’t help me, but I hope it will mean others will have a better chance than I have.”

What do you think about this campaign?

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