Five Feet Apart, a coming-of-age romance released in cinemas on Tuesday, tells the story of a couple with CF in the US who fall in love but must stay separated by 6ft because of the threat of potentially deadly cross infection. The film divided the CF community and caused concern because it breaks UK medical guidance which says those with the inherited lung disease should never meet. During the film heroine Stella Grant, played by Haley Lu Richardson, and Will Newman, played by Disney Channel star Cole Sprouse, come into close proximity.
Stella decides to “take one foot back” keeping five instead of 6ft.
At one point Will ignores the risk of cross infection and performs mouth to mouth resuscitation after pulling Stella from a frozen pond.
Dr Keith Brownlee, policy director at the Cystic Fibrosis Trust, said: “This film runs against UK medical guidance because cross infection is a very real risk if people with CF come into any proximity with each other.
“It is very sad people with this lifelong chronic condition are unable to meet. Even if not displaying symptoms patients can be carrying bacteria which are peculiar to CF patients. “The consequences of catching these can be deadly.”
Lucy Baxter, 21, who was diagnosed with cystic fibrosis at the age of two, says she is vigilant about catching lung infections for which she is hospitalised once a year.
Lucy, from Preston, said: “I was at an awards evening last year when someone came up to me and said they had cystic fibrosis and I just ran out of the room.”
Julie Rae, actress, model, singer and cystic fibrosis patient, wrote on her blog: “The trailer shows the main characters touching each others’ medications and walking together with no masks.
“No responsible doctor or nurse would allow or promote this.”
Another CF patient, Gunnar Esiason, said: “I think it’s a pathetic for-profit attempt to capitalise on a very narrow issue that gives a lot of people with cystic fibrosis extreme anxiety.”