The family of a Nigerian doctor who helped avert a potentially disastrous Ebola outbreak in Nigeria in 2014 has criticized an upcoming movie based on her story, describing it as an inaccurate portrayal of her life and work.
Dr. Ameyo Stella Adadevoh was part of the team that treated Nigeria’s first Ebola patient in Lagos, Nigeria’s densely populated commercial center, during a devastating 2014 outbreak of the virus in West Africa. Lagos’s weak healthcare infrastructure made it highly vulnerable to a rapid spread of the virus amongst the city’s 21 million residents.
Together with other members of staff at First Consultants Hospital, Adadevoh set up an isolation ward for the treatment of Patrick Sawyer, a Liberian government worker who arrived at the hospital and was diagnosed with the virus in July 2014. Despite diplomatic pressure from Liberia to release Sawyer, Adadevoh and her staff kept Sawyer at the hospital, helping to contain what could have proved a deadly outbreak for the densely populated commercial center.
Adadevoh died one month later after being infected with Ebola. She is portrayed in the film by the popular Nigerian actress Bimbo Akintola.
Some members of Adadevoh’s family released a statement early this week (Jan. 3) denouncing the use of her story for commercial profit as well as the depiction in the film of her husband, Afolabi Cardoso, and son, Bankole Cardoso, which they said was without their consent.
“The family strongly questions the integrity and authenticity of the story as it relates to the depiction of Dr. Ameyo Stella Adadevoh,” the statement read. The statement also said the family is considering legal action against the filmmakers for any “falsehoods or innuendos” in the film related to Adadevoh and her family. Nigerian law does not explicitly require filmmakers to seek the consent of the family before shooting a movie based on the story of Dr Adadevoh.
In response to the family’s accusations, the Nigeria-based producers of the film denied the family’s allegations in a statement, describing them as a malicious attempt to sabotage their film. Executive producer Steve Gukas told Quartz the movie does justice to Adadevoh’s story. “I have gone to great lengths, from the way she was written, to casting and shaping the performance of the actor that portrays her, to ensure that I do justice to this wonderful character. In the film we have made she comes out looking like the true hero she is,” Gukas said.
More than 10,000 people died in Liberia, Guinea, and Sierra Leone as a result of Ebola outbreak. The countries also experienced economic losses of roughly $1.6 billion. Nigeria experienced 19 cases of the disease, from which seven people died.
The World Health Organization has praised Nigeria’s swift reaction to the outbreak, which included border surveillance of passengers from countries with outbreaks and the successful monitoring and isolation of locals who were at risk of being infected following contact with infected patients. Nigeria was declared Ebola free on Oct. 20, 2014, three months after Sawyer’s arrival in the country. Sierra Leone and Guinea were declared Ebola free in November and December last year. Liberia currently has no cases of the virus and will be declared to have successfully ended human to human transmission of the virus by Jan. 14 if no new cases are reported.