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Did you watch Panorama?

On Monday, BBC One aired a Panorama show all about multiple sclerosis. The programme included exclusive access to patients pioneering a crossover cancer treatment that has enabled some people with MS to regain movement.

You can view the show on the BBC One website at

Twitter was ablaze throughout the evening of the show, with people commenting about it positively and negatively. At MS-UK, we saw people who felt the show was really hopeful, and some who simply didn’t like the use of the word ‘sufferer’.

The show definitely got the nation talking about multiple sclerosis, but how did it make you feel? In this blog we get Kahn’s view on the programme, and please do leave us a comment below saying what you thought about it!

Kahn’s view on the programme, and what it meant to him…

Kahn, Editor of New Pathways

Monday seemed to be a day when people felt compelled to ask if I was going to watch Panorama’s look at a new multiple sclerosis treatment being trialled in Sheffield.

I wasn’t going to. I was off to watch Room.

Monday evening and Tuesday morning, the same people again Tweeted and Facebooked me to ask if I’d seen the Panorama programme.

I hadn’t. I’d watched Room.

Enjoyed it too.

Which is more than can be said for the Panorama programme, which I sat down to watch on Tuesday as I had my lunch.

It being a programme by the BBC and Panorama, I was expecting a fair, balanced, honest look at a potential new treatment that could help people but comes with risks given that it involves stem cell transplants and chemotherapy.

Sadly, what I got instead was some kind of tabloid sensationalism, full of ‘sufferers’, ‘miracle’ cures and people with MS whose lives were over the minute they were diagnosed.

Now I know diagnosis is tough – it’s taken me years to get my head round it. But at no point did I think my life was over. It had just changed. Radically, sure, but still only changed. I was still alive.

And I know many fellow MSers who would say the same.

Panorama gave me the impression we’re all marathon runners and snowboarders whose reason for living has been stripped away.

Personally I couldn’t snowboard before I was diagnosed, never mind after…

So what message did that send out to people newly diagnosed? Or people, like me, who are doing OK at the moment?

Yes, I know Panorama aren’t there to do a PR piece for living well with MS. But they shouldn’t be there to scare the socks off you.

I like my socks. Leave them on.

And what about the side effects of chemo? Did I miss that bit? Or does everyone feel great straight away, if a smidge bald?

And what about all the other unanswered questions? Is the trial still open? Can it be carried out anywhere else?

And crucially, who did it not work for? What happened to the people whose immune system wasn’t rebooted?

I know they only had half an hour, and could only cover a certain amount, but the 30 minutes we got served left me feeling disappointed.

Disappointed that only the extremes of the condition were highlighted. Disappointed that a more sensationalist approach was favoured. Disappointed that all the good work the MS charities en masse do in promoting a positive approach was being systematically undone.

Maybe it wasn’t. Maybe people took something positive from the show and it was just me in a bad mood (hey, could happen…).

Part of me hopes so.

Let me know what you think by commenting below. I would love to know if you found watching the show difficult, like I did, or if you took it completely a different way?

And if I get answers to my questions, I’ll let you know.


Editor, New Pathways

Affected by the show?

You can contact the MS-UK Helpline to discuss anything related to multiple sclerosis. Just visit our website to live chat with us, or call 0800 783 0518.