Is it exploitation?

Photo courtesy of Mike Coombs via SXC

Photo courtesy of Mike Coombs via SXC

I was approached last week by Aidan’s palliative care team to see if we would be interested in talking to the producer of a news program about our story. As always, when asked if we would be willing to participate in media, I agreed.

Over the years, Aidan has done a few media stories for varying reasons – to raise awareness of his disease, to ask for blood donors, or to encourage people to donate to various organisations. I have little problem with this, but it does beg the question, is it exploitation?

As an avid viewer of documentaries, I understand society’s need to learn about other people and, as bad as it sounds, I admit to enjoying reading stories in newspapers and magazines about people who have had tragic things happen to them.

Finding out about other people’s lives was the reason I studied journalism in the first place. Through my years in media I have come to learn the ‘value’ of a story. More than just feeding human curiosity, stories about other people’s lives have the power to educate, to inspire and to bring about change. How many times have you read a story about someone overcoming insurmountable odds and thought, “if they can do it, so can I”?

Many years prior to having Aidan, I worked as a media manager at a children’s hospital. Here, I quickly learnt that a cute, sick child could do wonders for raising funds. Yes, it’s exploitation but I truly believe it’s for the greater good.

The way I see it, there have been so many families who have come before us, families who have put their privacy on the line to raise funds and awareness about childhood illnesses, palliative care and blood donations. Without these brave people, we wouldn’t have access to the services we have today. Now it’s our turn to carry the baton, to fight the fight for future generations. There isn’t a lot we can do to save Aidan but we can raise awareness. Every story has the potential to drive change, to improve funding and to inspire someone to find a cure.

There’s also a bit of selfish reason for agreeing to do media. In my heart, I believe that talking about Aidan’s illness will give his life more meaning. I like to think that he will leave a lasting legacy and that his pain and suffering will be for the greater good. In some ways, telling his story is a little way of making that happen.

Don’t get me wrong, if Aidan wasn’t comfortable doing media then I wouldn’t even contemplate it but I know he loves seeing himself on television and in newspapers. Me, on the other hand, I hate it. Seeing myself on television makes me cringe about how fat I look, or how bad I sound or how I come across and I dread it. But none of this is about me, it’s about the story, Aidan’s story and he deserves for it to be told.


5 thoughts on “Is it exploitation?

  1. I’ve had these same thoughts when using my daughters experiences to raise awareness of her own issues. Would she have chosen to be the face of it all? She’s only 10 months old… But I have to believe that the awareness it brings for herself and others like her is worth the possible embarrassment when she’s old enough to understand it all. Parenting a sick child is more than just hugs and drugs. There’s a whole ethical minefield to navigate too, and you are doing just fine.

    • Tracey, it certainly is hard to work through the ethics of it all but ultimately I think we have an obligation to raise awareness. I appreciate your support on this one, nice to know I am not alone.

  2. Kylie I think it is wonderful that you are able to share Aidan’s story. As heart breaking as it is, it also is a beautiful story about a gorgeous boy who never gives up and his amazing parents who have given him the world. x

  3. Make sure you let us know when it is on – I would love to watch. As you know my girls story was on the TV show RPA so I agree with everything you have said!!

  4. ex·ploi·ta·tion
    the action or fact of treating someone unfairly in order to benefit from their work.
    “the exploitation of migrant workers”
    synonyms: taking advantage, abuse, misuse, ill-treatment, unfair treatment, oppression More
    the action of making use of and benefiting from resources.
    “the Bronze Age saw exploitation of gold deposits”
    synonyms: utilization, use, making use of, making the most of, capitalization on; More

    It all depends how you define the word. Semantics aside, there is absolutely no problem with what you are doing. Aiden likes it, it’s not harming him–what else matters! I don’t see ethics entering into the equation at all. You’re telling his story. You’re telling your family story. Good on you. If the news station gives you the ability to do so, you need to post the clip here (or provide the link). And yes, news stories can and do inspire others. They change lives and have a great impact for good. I’ve seen it time and time again.

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