Monday, January 31, 2005

Yesterday's letter

Yesterday I wrote an open letter to Johns Hopkins Medical. I was really put off by a new TV commercial they now have on. I cc:ed the NYT.

January 30, 2005

An open letter to Johns Hopkins Medicine

To whom it may concern:


I just saw your TV campaign during the Chris Matthew's show on NBC this Sunday morning. It struck me as one of the more tasteless things I have seen on television in recent history. Your superficial handling of death as a malady that could have been avoided so that the American public could enjoy their favorite celebrities a little longer is both ludicrous and insensitive.

By dumbing-down and simplifying the inevitability of death (due to disease or otherwise) you are insulting the intelligence of your audience. Treating the grand majority as sentimental simps whose quality of life would be increased by the sustained existence of great, albeit personally inconsequential individuals in their lives. The insensitivity of using the possibility of lengthening the longevity of everybody's favorite musician, comedienne, ball-player, et al, denigrates the memory of everyone who has ever had a loved-one die of disease.

In these diagnosis-happy days just about every cause of death, including what used to be called "natural-causes", has a disease to call responsible. Mothers, fathers, sons, daughters, uncles, aunts, cousins, friends, and co-workers all die from disease and I think it is safe to say that at least one of these personal relations can have far more of an impact on our individual lives than even the greatest of public figures. I am employing the same mind-numbing simplicity you have used in your ad campaign to make my point. I bring to your attention the experience of inequity when being pandered to.

How an institution of your esteem and wisdom would let such a vapid concept as "we could have saved your favorite celebrity from dying an early death" be used for an advertising campaign makes me disheartened. I notice from your web site that this is a marketing-plan that is media wide in scope. I hope the doctors your produce don't have such saccharine bedside manner.

Sincerely, a human being who will one day die of disease,

Samuel Sheffler

East Hampton, NY

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