Jun. 1, 2007

The end justifies the means, or does it?

Today, a lot of people in Europe were waiting for news about a certain "reality show" from the Netherlands. What happened?

Dutch publicly financed television network, BNN, announced it would broadcast "The Big Donor Show". The show was supposed to be about a 37-year-old woman, named Lisa, suffering from an inoperable brain tumor. She wanted to donate a kidney before she died and wanted to choose the recipient from among three contestants on Dutch national television. Viewers were said to be able to vote for a candidate via SMS text message (for 60 cents/message), but the final determination would've been Lisa's, according to BNN.

What followed was a huge outcry not only by members of the Dutch parliament, who had a session on this topic and said that they couldn't intervene the stations plans for the show, as any intervention would be "censorship". Almost everyone thought the idea was extremely objectionably, distasteful and unethical. However, the station is no stranger when it comes to scandals. They invented "Big Brother", and showed a reporter snorting cocaine and then being interviewed about the experience in a talk-show format. Plus, the production company
was censured by Ofcom (in the UK) last week for their handling of the Celebrity Big Brother racism row.

At the end of the Big Donor Show, the host informed everyone that the show was completely staged and that Lisa was an actress. However, the 3 contestant really were waiting for a kidney, but were informed about the show and played their parts. The host explained the reasons for the show as a way to inform the public about the extreme need for donor organs in the Netherlands. This discussion was meant to inform people about the whole process and encourage people to sign up as organ donors.

Okay, I totally agree with them that at the moment the issue of donating your organs after brain-death or Cardiac Death is not very popular in the media. At the moment, mucoviscidosis is the illness that is most talked about in Germany. There seems to be some kind of trend, where the media only talks about one illness and pretty much forgets any other diseases. Unfortunately, cancer isn't a major priority in the news right now and neither is AIDS.

But does a need for information about a certain issue justify a show like this- even if it's staged? I don't think so- why not make a documentary about organ donations (and no, documentaries don't have to be boring, just add some real patients who talk about their experience waiting for donors and the stories will be interesting and people will talk about it.) Also, why not talk to your politicians about the possibility to change the law. In some European countries, everyone is a donor and you have to object if you don't agree due to religious beliefs or personal matters.

There's so much you can do, but shock everyone just to get a headline in the news? I don't think so, and this whole scenario probably will have the opposite effect- it will give a bad name to the whole issue and people will remember the scandal, not the cause.

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