The Truth About Health

“Am I going to die?”

Well, of course we’re all going to die. But what if, after illness or accident, we felt the need to ask this of a medical professional? Should they tell us the truth? Or should they hide us from the brutal facts of our condition?

Matthew O’Reily, a critical care emergency nurse, used to claim you should confront this problem by ‘simply lying’: ‘I was afraid that if I told them the truth they would die in terror’.

There are many cases, and not just where death is concerned, where ‘simply lying’ is a lot easier than telling the truth when it comes to health. People are generally inclined to cover up the darker side of their conditions. Whether it’s the stigma of that eating disorder, or the embarrassment of your IBS: the truth about health can be hard to stomach (in more ways than one).

But what about when it comes to medical professionals? Or even healthcare brands? O’Reily later concludes that it is better to offer the truth to critically ill patients – not only do they deserve it, it’s usually more helpful than a lie. Should brands do the same?

One brand that has been brave enough to confront the darker side of health is Macmillan. In their recent campaign they’ve moved the cancer discussion from running races and shaking buckets of change to the brutal reality of illness: the toll it takes on your body, on your mind, and on your relationships. This advert is not an easy watch, but neither is cancer. Perhaps more brands should take the leap in telling the truth about healthcare.

We’ll be exploring the darker side of healthcare storytelling at our Cannes Lion event. We’ll be accompanied by John Duncan of VICE Magazine’s health channel Tonic, a journal renowned for not shying away from the messier side of healthcare. Tania Boler will also be joining us on stage. Tania is co-founder and CEO of Chiaro, a women’s health tech company who have created a personal training device for everyone’s favourite muscle group, the pelvic floor. Don’t miss us discussing vice, vaginas, death and disease on the 18th June – or you may live to regret it.