Since all seven episodes of the series were released on Aug. 10, the show has been widely criticized for its portrayal of the subjects. Some argue that it makes a mockery out of those with chronic illnesses, and others say it ignores scientific studies on the conditions they have. The subjects themselves have also spoken out against the show.
"They’ve basically taken people with real chronic illnesses and made a mockery of them," Katie Crawford, who began a Change.org petition to get Netflix to remove the show, wrote. "The majority of those featured in the series have Lyme disease. They made it appear as though their symptoms are all in their heads, and it sheds a bad light on those who actually suffer with chronic illnesses. This show needs to be taken down. All it’s doing it making a mockery of people with real diseases and disorders."
The petition has 7,406 signatures as of Sunday.
On Aug. 19, several of the patients included in the series wrote a joint post on Medium titled "The Truth Behind Netflix's Afflicted." In it, they said they were told that their struggles and illnesses would be portrayed through a "compassionate lens." They signed up, hoping the show would bring wider understanding of their conditions. Unfortunately, they believe this was not the case.
"The most serious and central flaw of Afflicted is the way it frames our conditions — which impact millions of people around the world — as psychosomatic or psychiatric disorders," the essay read. "It does this in part by carefully excluding facts, which show that yes, while there is a lot that science does not understand about our conditions, they have an 'organic' basis."
The cast members noted that the show does not include interviews with some of most well-respected scientists on the subject, and instead relied "heavily on the skeptical voices of 'experts' who have no relevant professional or academic expertise in our diseases."
They went on to suggest that their own skepticism of alternative treatments were cut out of the episodes and their medical doctors were not consulted.
"The damage to each of us personally and to our communities collectively is difficult to overstate and is ongoing, even as we write this post," they wrote.
Members of the cast also wrote individual essays to share their true stories. Jill Maxi Edelstein, who lives with Multiple Chemical Sensitivity (MCS) wrote in her essay, "I want to say to Afflicted, I trusted you with my heart and my story and now you are using it against me and my people."
"I had no idea that the 'documentary' would be a reality show that asks the question Is this real? Are they crazy? Had I known, I would never have signed on. I am heartbroken and furious. I am being harassed, criticized and questioned," Edelstein, a practicing therapist, wrote.0comments
Dan Partland, one of the executive producers on the series, recently told HuffPost last week the producers are "saddened and upset" by the reaction to Afflicted.
“Our intention was to give the world a compassionate window into the difficulties of patients and families suffering from elusive and misunderstood illnesses, to humanize their struggle, and to show that struggle in all its complexity," Partland said. "The participants in ‘Afflicted’ showed incredible courage in sharing their stories and we respect the thoughtfulness with which they have entered the online discussion, even when they have been critical of us. The conditions they, and others, are suffering from are real and deserve more attention.”