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Douglas Capraro Douglas Capraro

Photos: “Vice” Publishes Intimate Photos of Pete Doherty in Rehab

These intimate photos taken of the ex-Libertine's experience at a Thai rehab facility tread a fine line of ethical journalism. What do you think?

3 Substance

Pete Doherty, former lead singer of the British rock band the Libertines, recently stayed at the Hope Rehab Center in Thailand where he was treated for heroin addiction. The singer, who has been in and out of rehab for years, is no stranger to having a media spotlight on his struggle with addiction. But this week, Vice published a series of photos of him in rehab that offer a deeply intimate—some might say a way too intimate—inside look at the singer’s experiences during his early treatment.

Vice‘s Noisey reports that Simon Mott, who works at the Hope Rehab center, contacted them with “a folder of videos, pictures and interviews” taken of Doherty during his stay at the facility. He comes across as vulnerable, spaced out and erratic—almost as if he’s not entirely aware of what’s going on—which is to be expected in early recovery. Many former addicts can certainly relate.

But what some may not relate to is having this very raw experience publicized. By the staff of the rehab. Even if Doherty gave his consent—in exchange for free treatment.

Let’s break this down point by  point.

On the one hand, Mott insists that the process of sharing this media, which he calls “visual recovery,” was for Doherty’s benefit: “We say in 12-step recovery ‘give it away to keep it, so Pete’s wish to help other addicts will help him stay clean. By explaining his therapeutic process on film and watching it back, it helps cognitively embed it mentally [sic].”

On the other hand, they also say in 12-step recovery to “maintain anonymity at the level of press, radio and film.” But Mott does not mention this. Nor does Simon Mott ask him about it. Not only that, in most 12-step programs it is recommended that newcomers don’t make any major decisions in early recovery—like having their experience recorded and publicized.

But Mott goes even further, offering highly personal, in-depth details about Doherty’s recovery, saying that he has built a relationship with the singer over the years. “He seemed far more motivated and more ready to do what is necessary to stay stopped this time.”

In addition, the interview is full of plugs for the center, which Mott says is run by addicts and not a money-making endeavor: “We do it because it is our purpose and it help keeps us clean.”

The entire photo-essay and accompanying video read like an advertisement for Hope Rehab. But Mott insists that they were taken at Doherty’s urging: “Pete asked if he could have free treatment in exchange for doing PR,” he says. “So I agreed and some of the interviews are for this purpose.”

Exploitative or beneficial? Should Vice magazine have gone along with it? Should we?

Much like the show Celebrity Rehab, which also capitalized on celebrities’ early recovery—with their permission—this piece treads a very fine line.