Man’s Leg Amputated by Ad Agency, Not Diabetes, in Anti-Obesity Ad

New York City's health department is under scrutiny for what some say is questionable photo editing.

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New York City Department of Health / AP

A poster being used in New York's latest public health campaign warning against diabetes. It features a photo of an overweight amputee, but it turns out that an ad agency, not diabetes, was to blame for his missing leg.

In an advertisement released by New York City’s health department, an overweight man with an amputated leg sits on a stool, with a pair of crutches visible to his left. A graphic in front of him warns about soft drinks and their relationship with diabetes.

The problem? The leg in question wasn’t amputated by diabetes — it was lopped off with Photoshop. The (unnecessary) crutches were also added later. The ad, which launched Jan. 9 as part of an ongoing campaign, is now under scrutiny for questionable photo editing.

Getty Images

According to the The New York Times, the health department confirmed that its advertising agency altered the photo.  The Times also unearthed the photo shoot’s original take from Getty Images, seen at right, and noted that the ad never disclosed that its subject had two functioning legs, and may not have diabetes at all.

“This is another example of the ‘What can we get away with?’ approach that shapes these taxpayer-funded ad campaigns,” Chris Gindlesperger, the American Beverage Association’s director of communications, said in a statement. The American Beverage Association opposes the city’s campaign against fast food and sodas.

“Sometimes we use individuals who are suffering from the particular disease; other times we have to use actors,” John Kelly, a health department spokesman, told the Times. “We might stop using actors in our ads if the food industry stops using actors in theirs.”

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