Marfan Foundation Urges “The Internship” to Take Marfan Syndrome Seriously

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Marfan Syndrome is Not a Joke; It Kills

We urge the producers of The Internship and the actors to try to right this situation by working with us to raise awareness of the signs of Marfan syndrome and save lives because half of the people who have this condition are not diagnosed.

When a rare disorder gets included in a high profile movie starring such box office sensations as Will Ferrell and Vince Vaughn, it can be great for public awareness. But not when the condition is used as a joke or, even worse, as a bullying comment.

And that’s what happened when Marfan syndrome was uttered by Will Ferrell’s character as an insult to Vince Vaughn’s character in The Internship, which was released on Friday, June 7.

“Marfan syndrome is not a laughing matter,” said Carolyn Levering, President and CEO of the National Marfan Foundation. “The condition, which affects 1 in 5,000 people worldwide, is life-threatening, especially if it is not diagnosed and treated. People who have this disorder are at risk of a sudden early death from a tear in their aorta, the large artery that takes blood away from their heart.”

Tragedy is very real in the Marfan community. Jonathan Larson, the Tony Award-winning playwright of RENT, died of an aortic dissection believed to have been caused by Marfan syndrome. He was misdiagnosed by two New York City hospital emergency departments and sent home, only to die alone before his show opened on Broadway and changed the course of musical theater forever.

Since Friday night, the Foundation has heard from its members across the country – in personal emails, by phone, and in social media – about how hurtful the comment in the movie was. They were “horrified,” felt like they were “kicked in the stomach,” and said the Marfan comment was in “terrible taste.” A Virginia man, who lost his two-year-old son to Marfan syndrome in 2011, wrote that he was “extremely upset with the lack of taste, concern and disrespect concerning this disorder.”

“We urge the producers of The Internship and the actors to try to right this situation by working with us to raise awareness of the signs of Marfan syndrome and save lives because half of the people who have this condition are not diagnosed. With a diagnosis and treatment, they can live a normal lifespan,” said Levering.

More About Marfan Syndrome

People with Marfan syndrome frequently have signs that are easy to see. These include long arms, legs, and fingers; tall and thin body type; a curved spine; sunken or protruding chest; flexible joints; flat feet; crowded teeth; and unexplained stretch marks on the skin. Other problems associated with the condition are sudden collapse of a lung and eye problems, including severe nearsightedness, dislocated lens, detached retina, early glaucoma, and early cataracts. The harder to detect features – especially related to the aorta – frequently result in the most devastating complications and, if not treated, sudden death.

The National Marfan Foundation

The Marfan Foundation creates a brighter future for everyone affected by Marfan syndrome and related disorders. We work tirelessly to advance research, serve as a resource for families and healthcare providers, and raise public awareness. We will not rest until we have achieved victory.
Learn more and get involved at Marfan.org.

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Eileen Masciale
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