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Bewitched casts no spell for medical foundation

11/07/2005. Contributed by Jessica Martin

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The American Liver Foundation has condemned Nicole Kidman's fantasy film Bewitched - based on an insensitive joke regarding people with hepatitis C.

In the film, a woman discourages romantic advances from a character played by Michael Caine, by saying she has hepatitis C. Bewitched was written by Nora Ephron and released by Columbia Pictures.

"Tragically, this remarkably tasteless comment plays into the stigma that many people with hepatitis C have to cope with every single day," said Frederick G. Thompson, President and CEO of the American Liver Foundation. "I can't imagine anyone in Hollywood making a joke about HIV infection, for example. But because the public is so uneducated about hepatitis C, it apparently seems acceptable to trivialize the disease in a comedic context, at the expense of millions of hepatitis sufferers. The American Liver Foundation has received hundreds of calls and e-mails from movie-goers expressing outrage and dismay."

There are over 4 million people who are or have been infected with hepatitis C; 2.7 million of whom are chronically infected. Hepatitis C is the major reason for liver transplantation in this country and about 10,000 people die each year from complications of hepatitis C. It is projected that the death rate will triple over the next 10-to-20 years unless something is done.

The symptoms of hepatitis C are often hidden until severe liver damage occurs, which is often too late for effective treatment. Untreated, chronic hepatitis can lead to scarring of the liver (cirrhosis), liver cancer, and liver failure.

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