Vice President Biden mock obituary: ‘Three things I’d say to you’

Image copyright Getty Images Image caption The polyp was removed in 2013 Biden O’Connor’s fate may have been sealed at the age of three after a brief notice in the Daily Record about his…

Vice President Biden mock obituary: 'Three things I'd say to you'

Image copyright Getty Images Image caption The polyp was removed in 2013

Biden O’Connor’s fate may have been sealed at the age of three after a brief notice in the Daily Record about his recently diagnosed colon polyp.

The Sunday newspaper ran an obituary on the former vice-president.

But an uninvited flurry of tweets from strangers, friends and relatives around the world soon followed.

The headline of one particularly personal tweet – he’d killed my father! – appeared on the internet.

In reality, no attempt had been made to contact Mr O’Connor. The hoax ended up just the regret of the woman who sent it.

Faced with an embarrassing climbdown, the newspaper issued a retraction on Tuesday.

The tweet resulted in an outpouring of sympathy and a visit from Vice President Joe Biden on Wednesday.

Mr O’Connor – who later regained his composure and spoke to the BBC – had moved to Scotland from the north-east of England to be with his Scottish wife, Patricia.

His father was Alex Cousins, a popular Ulster player and team manager.

Mr O’Connor said: “People get taken in by the wrong people and someone else is more than willing to ‘give’ them a quote.

“It never crossed my mind that this had crossed to something seriously.”

A few people had given genuine condolences, and he said a substantial proportion of those who had contacted him wished him well.

Image copyright Getty Images Image caption A local councillor read out the following tweet in council chambers

A small number had advised him about their concerns about men’s health.

“Being young and from a family of one generation of male bowel cancer survivors, I’m all too aware that this is still happening, and that there is a long way to go before men in this country realise they are at risk,” he said.

The former BBC executive, who lives near Glasgow, had a rather different experience as he got his part of the mock obituary published on the front page of the paper.

It said he had resigned as an active member of the United States delegation to the Rio Olympic Games in 2016 after admitting smoking “a little weed” and accidentally tripping over a live cat.

A few days later he was popped in for a routine medical examination.

While medical staff noted a few minor abnormalities – tests were given the all-clear, but the vice-president’s own account caught the attention of the Daily Record.

Dr Ian Carruthers, a professor of pathology and surgical oncology at the University of Edinburgh, told BBC Scotland the former vice-president’s entry was a particularly striking example of “colon cancer being at the forefront of our medical concern”.

“I would describe it as a major event,” he said.

“It meant the papers stopped.”

When he found out the “news”, said Mr O’Connor, he was stunned.

“It’s such a surprise to know that it can happen to anyone,” he added.

The theory is that somebody put the story up in an attempt to generate hits, but the story did not get picked up by any other Scottish or other paper.

This appears to have been the result of “curveballs” – one of which is a potentially deadly polyp, discovered and removed in 2013.

“It was big,” Dr Carruthers told BBC Scotland.

“It was a very aggressive cancer and it represented a failure on the part of the system.

“It should have been spotted long before, and I think that caught attention.”

Dr Carruthers said the model of medicine was trying to act faster.

Cancer Prevention Week and its message of “early detection” mean a polyp can be avoided in the future.

Image copyright Getty Images Image caption Vice President Joe Biden held his first public meeting in Scotland since leaving the White House

He said if the information had been available from an earlier stage, more could have been done to diagnose Biden O’Connor.

“It’s very frustrating because it is entirely preventable,” he said.

“There is some improvement in care in Scotland, but it is just at a snail’s pace.

“There’s a lot of other countries that have improved their cancer outcomes through treating cancers earlier.”

A spokesman for the paper said the Twitter hoax was “a regrettable mistake”.

He said the article appeared “inadvertently and in good faith”, but said: “In hindsight, it was a regrettable mistake and we have apologised and retract it.”

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