This photo of a father holding his sick son keeps getting removed from Facebook

By Kirstin Buick
16 May 2016

One commenter labelled it "the sickest thing I ever saw".

But the powerful photo of a father cradling his sick son in the shower, taken by his photographer wife, has been hailed by others as a "true representation of the love of a parent".

Heather Whitten, from Arizona in the US, shared the photo of her husband Thomas comforting their little boy, Fox, on Facebook.

Unfortunately for Heather, the photo reportedly contravenes some of the social network's strict nudity rules, and as such Facebook has taken it down more than once.

According to The Sun, the photo was taken in 2014, when Fox (then just under one year old) was ill with food poisoning.

He'd been struck down with vomiting and diarrhoea, and Thomas had taken him into the shower to soothe and clean him.

"Thomas had spent hours in the shower with him, trying to keep his fever down and letting the vomit and diarrhoea rinse off of them both as it came," Heather, who is also mom to Fox's twin Persephone (both 2), and Lillian (7), and Leena (4), wrote on Facebook.

"It was a powerful moment for us as parents. As I sat in the shower with the two of them I was just overwhelmed with the scene in front of me. This man. This husband and partner and father."

Read more: Angry mom shames ‘bully’ son in viral Facebook post

"He was so patient and so loving and so strong with our tiny son in his lap. His whispers of reassurance to Fox, that he would be OK and that Thomas would take care of him were so steady and so honest."

As a result, Heather said she was compelled to capture the moment. "I stepped out and grabbed my camera and came back to snap a few images of it and, of course shared them."

Heather went on to explain that commentators felt like it had "crossed a line", and should not have been shared publicly -- which is why it was flagged by a user (or perhaps more than one) to have broken the site's strict nudity rules -- and subsequently removed.

"I was taken aback by how many people missed the story or didn’t even look past the nudity to find the story," an outraged Heather wrote.

However, the site's policy on nudity in pictures is not black-and-white.

“Facebook has a strict policy against the sharing of pornographic content and any explicitly sexual content where a minor is involved,” the site’s community standards page reads.

Read more: 10 things you need to do to make sure your Facebook account is safe and secure

“We also impose limitations on the display of nudity. We aspire to respect people’s right to share content of personal importance, whether those are photos of a sculpture like Michelangelo’s David or family photos of a child breastfeeding.”

But Heather disagrees -- so much so that she keeps posting the image to Facebook.

"There is nothing sexual or exploitative about this image," she argued. "There aren’t even any 'private parts' showing."

And the mother of four has had her share of supporters, mostly parents themselves.

"As a father to two young boys this story made made me shed a tear," one such man wrote. "All loving and caring fathers would have done the same no matter what. Be proud of your husband for giving your child unconditional love and be proud of yourself for sharing this very beautiful moment. Both of you are blessed to have him."

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Whatever the case, the photo certainly got people talking. It's believed to have had more than 31 000 shares and over 129 000 reactions -- before it was removed again.

Sources: Facebook, The Sun, News.com.au, TIME

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