Is there a right way or a wrong way to have cancer?
In an op-ed that's drawing a lot of attention (much of it negative), former New York Times Executive Editor Bill Keller writes about cancer patient Lisa Boncheck Adams, who has tweeted more than 166,000 times, often about her cancer treatments, and garnered a following of more than 10,000 strong. First, Keller compares Adams to his late father-in-law.
Via The New York Times:
"His death seemed to me a humane and honorable alternative to the frantic medical trench warfare that often makes an expensive misery of death in America."
"Her digital presence is no doubt a comfort to many of her followers. On the other hand, as cancer experts I consulted pointed out, Adams is the standard-bearer for an approach to cancer that honors the warrior, that may raise false hopes, and that, implicitly, seems to peg patients like my father-in-law as failures."
While Keller's column doesn't come out and say that Adams should pipe down, many on Twitter felt it had a passive-aggressive tone that was implying just that.
Best-selling author Susan Orlean expressed her displeasure at Keller's piece.
I am appalled on every level by Bill Kellers oped piece about @AdamsLisa. Astonishing.— Susan Orlean (@susanorlean) January 13, 2014
Actress Martha Plimpton also voiced her support for Adams, or at least her indignation with Keller.
Author and editor John Podhoretz ripped into both Bill and his wife, Emma Keller, who had previously written an op-ed piece for the U.K.'s Guardian about Adams.
Ive been offline for an hour. Have Bill and Emma Keller attacked another person with cancer since I've been gone?— John Podhoretz (@jpodhoretz) January 13, 2014
Jeopardy! champ Ken Jennings wrote this:
Terrified I might get cancer, because what if Bill and Emma Keller yell at me.— Ken Jennings (@KenJennings) January 13, 2014
Emma Keller wrote a story about Adams for the London Guardian titled, "Forget funeral selfies. What are the ethics of tweeting a terminal illness?" In the piece, she asked if there was “such a thing as TMI? Are her tweets a grim equivalent of deathbed selfies, one step further than funeral selfies? Why am I so obsessed?” The Guardian has since removed the post from its website.
The Guardian told iMediaEthics it removed Emma Keller's piece because "it is inconsistent with the Guardian editorial code."
Still, for all the criticism aimed at Bill Keller, he does have his defenders, according to a piece written by Margaret Sullivan of the New York Times.
Via the New York Times:
That negative response was not universal. My email on Monday included correspondence from those who defended the column. And the comments under the column itself include many positive ones.
Sullivan may want to read the comments again, because they are overwhelmingly negative. A relatively small number support Keller.
Have your own opinion about this? Please leave a comment below.
Follow Mike Krumboltz on Twitter (@mikekrumboltz).