Two B.C. parents are speaking out after finding a photo of their daughter with special needs in an ad campaign promoting pre-natal screening.
Langley mom Christie Hoos said she decided to share the image on her blog while writing about her little girl, Becca, who has Down syndrome.
The post was intended to dispel misconceptions about raising a child with special needs, and Hoos chose one of her most precious family photos to accompany it.
“It was her in a very gentle moment,” Hoos told CTV News. “It’s beautiful.”
Years went by. Then last weekend, one of her blog commenters recognized Becca’s face on an overseas advertisement for Swiss-based genetics laboratory Genoma.
The purpose of the ad, which was hung on a massive outdoor banner during an event for medical professionals in Spain, was to promote a prenatal test for detecting Down syndrome.
Hoos said when she saw it for herself, her heart broke.
“You know there’s a risk if you put a picture of your kid out there, but not like this,” she said.
“It is so insulting and derogatory toward her. It’s pre-natal testing so you can [choose to] eradicate a child like this… instead of looking at that beautiful face and seeing how precious she is.”
It turns out the photo had been stolen and uploaded to a free stock photo website. Hoos and her husband said they’ve heard from at least two other people who claim their children’s pictures were similarly taken without permission.
For its part, Genoma said it has stopped using the photo, and is pursing legal action against the photo site.
“We have seen the image displayed in a few other medical websites so nothing led us to believe that the parents had not given permission,” spokeswoman Elena Dalle Carbonare said in an email statement.
As of Wednesday, the website had removed all the stock images from its section on Down syndrome.
Hoos said Genoma has contacted her family about offering an apology. According to the company, the ad featuring Becca was intended to “convey a message of life and vitality and to make people think.”
For now, Hoos's focus is on taking care of Becca, who is undergoing cancer treatment. As for the photos on her blog, Hoos said they’re staying up.
“I’m not going to punish myself for something someone else did, and I’m not going to punish her either and make her hide away.”
With a report from CTV Vancouver’s Maria Weisgarber