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'Afflicted' Cast Sues Netflix for Portraying Their Chronic Illnesses Wrong

On Wednesday, four cast members of the chronic illness-related Netflix series “Afflicted” filed a lawsuit against Netflix and show producers for defamation for portraying them as “lazy, crazy, hypochondriacs and/or malingerers.”

“Afflicted,” which was released in August 2018, follows seven people diagnosed with difficult to diagnose (and often controversial) health conditions. The featured patients included Jamison Hill, Pilar Olave, Jill Edelstein and Bekah Dinnerstein. After the series premiered on Netflix, however, “Afflicted” cast members were horrified to see the series portrayed their illnesses as questionable and perhaps completely made up.

The cast took to social media and Medium to protest the way their stories were portrayed and the show’s use of experts who questioned the validity of their conditions, suggesting they had a mental illness instead. Now known as “the Afflicted Four,” Hill, Olave, Edelstein and Dinnerstein are suing Netflix, production company Doc Shop Productions and producers Dan Partland, Peter Logreco and Stephanie Lincoln for defamation.

In a suit filed with the Los Angeles Superior Court, the Afflicted Four state they were “duped by Plaintiffs into participating in a salacious reality television program that questioned the existence of their chronic illnesses and portrayed Plaintiffs as lazy, crazy, hypochondriacs and/or malingerers who were deserving of scorn and who in fact have received scorn and abuse because of Defendants’ cruel and duplicitous actions.”

The Afflicted Four say they were misled about the documentary’s purpose. According to the lawsuit, the cast was told the show “would help spread understanding of rare, but very real, chronic illnesses.” The cast claims the end product, however, used “deceptive and unethical tricks to suggest that the Afflicted Four’s illnesses, which are documented by mainstream medical professionals, are ‘all in their heads.’”

It’s not uncommon for those who live with tricky and difficult to diagnose chronic illnesses, like fibromyalgia or myalgic encephalomyelitis (ME/CFS), to have their symptoms dismissed by doctors as “all in their heads.” Hill, who lives with ME/CFS, told The Mighty immediately after the documentary aired he felt misled and that “Afflicted” would cause harm to others with chronic illnesses who already aren’t believed by their friends, family and often doctors. He said:

I don’t think it helps much, if at all. And in some cases I definitely think it hurts. I think mental illness is a serious topic that needs attention, but this series was not presented to me as a documentary about mental illness. The producers had us complete psyche evaluations before filming and yet they portrayed some of us, however implicitly, like we had mental illnesses. That was a pretty slimy move in my opinion.

After news of the lawsuit broke, Hill tweeted, “BOOM! Revenge is a dish best served . . . in court.”

The Mighty reached out to attorneys Randall S. Leff and Russell M. Selmont of Ervin Cohen & Jessup who are representing the Afflicted Four, Netflix and Doc Shop Productions for comment and has yet to hear back.

Header image via Medium