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Bollywood star’s ‘irresponsible’ cancer stunt slammed in ethics debate

Poonam Pandey revealed her death announcement was a hoax just hours after tributes were shared (Picture: Jam Press)

A Bollywood actress, who faked her own death and claimed it was cancer, has been branded ‘irresponsible’ and ‘insensitive’ by leading charities

Poonam Pandey, 32, was thought to have died after a message shared on her Instagram account last Friday said she had lost a fight against cervical cancer. 

However, the actress posted a video hours later stating she was ‘alive’, did not have cervical cancer and that the death announcement was a publicity stunt. 

‘I’m proud of what my death news has been able to achieve,’ she said, while also apologising for the ‘hurt’ she had caused. 

Now, the chair of leading gynecological charity Go Girls in the UK, has condemned the stunt as a means of spotlighting cervical cancer. 

‘To try and raise awareness by pretending you’ve died is wholly unethical and very insensitive to those people who have died from this disease,’ Hilary Maxwell told Metro.co.uk

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‘The clinical nurse specialist continued: ‘What we need to be doing is ensure that people value their gynecological health at all levels and understand the importance of cervical screening for the prevention of cervical cancer. 

‘This includes both HPV vaccination is eligible as well as attending screenings as per national and international programs. 

‘To raise awareness in any other form, we would not consider appropriate.’ 

Most cervical cancer cases are caused by human papillomavirus (HPV), which is transmitted through sexual contact and causes no symptoms.

Roughly 13 high-risk types of HPV cause 99.7% of cervical cancers.

Signs and symptoms of cervical cancer can include vaginal bleeding that’s unusual for you, pain during sex, or pain in your lower back, between your hip bones (pelvis), or in your lower tummy. 

Bridget Little, Head of Support Services at Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust also weighed in on the controversy and highlighted the severity of how cervical cancer impacts lives. 

Pandey, a Bollywood actress and model, has been branded ‘irresponsible’ and ‘insensitive’ (Picture: Jam Press)

‘In the UK, more than 800 women die every year as a result of cervical cancer, and we know this article is likely to have caused distress to many of those affected by cervical cancer, particularly the families of those women who have lost their lives to this disease,’ Little said. 

‘Cervical cancer is largely preventable through HPV vaccination, cervical screening, and treatment for cell changes.  It is important to raise awareness of cervical cancer in an appropriate and sensitive way that encourages people to come forward for screening and vaccination, which can save lives.’ 

Highlighting the seriousness of Pandey’s publicity stunt, Maxwell said: ‘[Cervical cancer is] a gruesome death and not something to be made light of. Social media should not be used in such an irresponsible way. 

‘There are without a doubt cultural differences inevitably in any country but that person is fully aware of the power of social media whether you live in India or England and therefore the principles apply. I’m not sure that would have the desired outcome.’ 

She continued: ‘What we want women to do is to individually value their health. That’s why they want to do it, because they want to be there for themselves and their loved ones for the future.’ 

Little, from Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust, added: ‘Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust has been here for 25 years, supporting those affected by cervical cancer.  Our website and free helpline, 0808 802 8000 offer support and information to anyone worried about HPV, cell changes or cervical cancer.’ 

Pandey’s ‘death’ was announced on Friday in a statement which claimed: ‘This morning is a tough one for us. Deeply saddened to inform you that we have lost our beloved Poonam to cervical cancer.



What is Human Papillomavirus (HPV)?

Human Papillomavirus is a group of viruses that affect the skin and moist membrane linings of the body – including the mouth, throat and cervix.

There are more than 100 strains of the infection, and around 30 affect the genital area,

Genital HPV infections are very common and highly contagious – and spread easily during sexual intercourse, and through skin-on-skin contact of the genital area.

Most HPV infections are cleared by the immune system within two years, and don’t cause serious harm, aside from verrucas and skin warts.

Some strains cause genital warts, and abnormal tissue growth in the cervix, and can sometimes lead to cervical cancer.

While there is no treatment for the virus itself, medication is available for the effects.

For more information visit the NHS website.

‘Every living form that ever came in contact with her was met with pure love and kindness.’

Hours after the initial post, Pandey shared a video, in which she said: ‘I am alive. I didn’t die because of cervical cancer.’

She went on to explain that she planned the hoax to raise awareness for the preventable disease and encourage women to get tested and vaccinated.

However, the stunt was immediately criticised by many who naturally fell for the hoax. Instagram user @irakeshdwivedi said: ‘Am happy she is alive but Pls arrest her for this drama and publicity stunt.’

@jannatsorathia added: ‘Worst PR stunt, you could have done a better way, than highlighting such a sensitive topic for so many cancer patients. Highly not appreciated.’

In a follow-up video, Pandey seemed to think the point of the hoax was proven in the widespread reaction, saying: ‘Yes, I faked my demise. Extreme, I know, but suddenly we’re all talking about cervical cancer, aren’t we.’ 

Pandey, an Indian model and actress made her Bollywood debut as the lead in 2013 movie Nasha, in which she played drama teacher Anita who has an affair with a teenager student.

She was most recently seen in Indian reality show Lock Upp, while other credits include Love is Poison, The Journey of Karma and Maili & Co.



Macmillan cancer support

If you or someone you care about has been diagnosed with cancer, Macmillan can offer support and information.

You can contact their helpline on 0808 808 00 00 (7 days a week from 8am to 8pm), use their webchat service, or visit their site for more information.

Got a story?

If you’ve got a celebrity story, video or pictures get in touch with the Metro.co.uk entertainment team by emailing us [email protected], calling 020 3615 2145 or by visiting our Submit Stuff page – we’d love to hear from you.


MORE : Outrage as star’s ‘cervical cancer death’ revealed as publicity stunt


MORE : Bollywood actress dies from cancer aged just 32



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