Friday, 6 February 2009

Living (and dying) in the public eye

I'm conflicted, as they say, on the Jade Goody story. Part of me feels that we should all just leave her alone to get better or, as seems more likely, to spend the little time that she has left with her family and friends. Certainly, if that's what she wants, then people should respect her wishes.

Sadly, it seems that she will continue to be a fixture in the tabloids as her illness takes its course, if only because as one of the new breed of celebs that's how she earns her living and that's the only way she has of providing financially for her two sons, both now and in the future when she may not be around to support them. I hope for her sake that the press voluntarily draws a clear line between stories with which she has willingly co-operated and for which she has been paid, and snatched paparazzi shots of her through car windows on her way to hospital or other intrusion.

In most circumstances the press might have an arguable case that someone who sells stories or promotes themself by revealing intimate details of their private life has renounced their right to privacy. Unwanted media intrusion is part and parcel of the celebrity lifestyle (although the Naomi Campbell case shows there are, quite rightly in my view, limits to this. I think the limit was certainly breached in respect of Britney Spears, during a period when she seemed to be suffering from serious mental health problems, and possibly in Kerry Katona's although in the latter case she is clearly often co-operating with the media. But I don't think their celebrity makes them fair game).

So as I said, part of me feels that we should leave Jade alone and therefore I feel slightly uncomfortable blogging about this. But her case does highlight an important issue, and in this day and age, it often takes a celebrity angle to draw attention to such things. From what I've read in the press, Jade had been treated on three previous occasions for pre-cancerous cells identified in smear tests, the first time being when she was only 16. But when a much more recent test revealed another problem, she was too scared to seek treatment. By the time she did, she had cancer, which has now spread.

There was quite a fuss last year when the Government introduced cervical cancer jabs for 12 year old girls (or, to put it more accurately, vaccinations against the human papilloma virus, HPV, which is one of the key causes of cervical cancer) and some scare-mongering from the usual quarters. But if it helps prevent deaths (1000 women a year die from cervical cancer) and promote awareness amongst young women of the disease, then I'm all in favour.

I'm also pressing the Government to explain why smear tests for 16-25 year olds have been withdrawn, on the basis that they allegedly 'do more harm than good'. I've recently written to the Public Health Minister after a constituent raised the issue with me. It's very rare for women in this age group to contract cervical cancer, but it still seems a step in the wrong direction to remove the right to have a test. Fraser Kemp, the Labour MP, has been a real champion of this cause and had an adjournment debate before Christmas. I don't know who's right or wrong on this issue, but I'm glad MPs like Fraser are prepared to ask questions.


Tom said...

The fact that it's so rare in that age group may mean that a positive result is pretty likely to be a false positive. If that leads to invasive or risky treatment, then that could well mean the tests do more harm than good.

(I don't know the details of this particular test/treatment, just suggesting one plausible possibility)

Dick the Prick said...

Is it definately terminal? Oooh, that's a bit bad.

Anonymous said...

Sorry to change the subject, but Britney and Kerry do not suffer from mental illness. They take far too many drugs.

Why is it when rich people take drugs everyone's happy to make up ridiculous lies about it and cover up for them by turning what they're doing into some sort of quasi-medical condition that deserves our sympathy but when poor people do drugs we're common criminals?

Kerry said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Kerry said...

And you know that for a fact, BB? Anyway, isn't drug/ alcohol addiction a medical problem too? I think that, certainly in Britney Spears case, if her problems were attributable to drugs, she's gone way beyond recreational use - and I think once it gets to that stage, it's wrong to exploit their vulnerability in that situation. I was on TV on Sunday arguing that drug addiction should be treated primarily as a health issue, with the emphasis being on getting people into treatment rather than into jail. And before you say it - I accept there are plenty of drug users who don't have a drug problem, or don't see themselves as having one, and don't have to resort to crime to fund their drug consumption... but that's getting even more O/T.

Old Holborn said...

the Devils Kitchen did this a few days ago. WOW, lively to say the least.


Kerry said...

I'm surprised you'd want to draw attention to it, given your contributions.

yellowbelly said...


compare and contrast the reaction to the diagnosis of terminal cancer by Jade Goody with Jane Tomlinson CBE

I know which one I respect and admire.

Kerry said...

I don't think anyone is particularly suggesting you should respect or admire Jade Goody. I think there are two notable elements to her case - one is that being so young, and so much in the public eye, she will even without trying do a lot to highlight this issue, and the other is the whole concept of modern celebrity - she is probably the most successful reality TV star ever, or certainly the one who has got the furthest by being nothing other than someone who appears on reality TV.