Saturday, June 02, 2007

Kidney Transplant TV Show Is a Hoax

Nice story came via Associated Press last night. It's to do with a Dutch TV show (designed by the infamous Endemol production company (creator of Big Brother among other programmes). The idea was that several contestants in need of a donor organ would compete (on air) for the kidney of a dying woman. The winner would receive the kidney and thereby be spared infinite dialysis (and likely premature death). There has been a huge outcry over this internationally. - It turns out, the story (and show) was a hoax. Here's the AP item:

Saturday June 2, 2007 12:46 AM


By TOBY STERLING
Associated Press Writer

AMSTERDAM, Netherlands (AP) - A television show in which a woman would
donate a kidney to a contestants was revealed as a hoax Friday, with
presenters saying they were trying to pressure the government into reforming
organ donation laws.

Shortly before the controversial program was to air, Patrick Lodiers of the
``Big Donor Show'' said the woman was not actually dying of a brain tumor
and the entire exercise was intended to put pressure on the government and
raise awareness of the need for organs.

The three prospective recipients were real patients in need of transplants
and had been in on the hoax, the show said.

The program concept had received widespread criticism for being tasteless
and unethical.

But Lodiers said that it was ``reality that was shocking'' because around
200 people die annually in the Netherlands while waiting for a kidney, and
the average waiting time is more than four years. Under Dutch rules, donors
must be friends, or preferably, family of the recipient. Meeting on a TV
show wouldn't qualify.

``I thought it was brilliant, really,'' said Caroline Klingers, a kidney
patient who was watching the show at a kidney treatment center in Bussum,
Netherlands.

``I know these transplant doctors, and I thought they'll never go and
actually do it. But it's good for the publicity and there are no losers.''

During the show, 25 kidney patients were vetted by ``Lisa,'' and most were
quickly dismissed for being too old, too young, smokers, ex-smokers or
unemployed. Contestants gave moving pleas for why they should receive the
organ.

``It really hurt watching that,'' said Tim Duyst, whose wife is awaiting a
transplant and cannot work. ``You're dismissed in a wave of the hand.''

Viewers were called on to express an opinion or vote for their favorite
candidate by SMS text message for 47 cents.

The show was produced by Endemol, which created ``Big Brother'' in 1999.

The Royal Netherlands Medical Association, known by its Dutch acronym KNM,
had urged its members not to participate and questioned whether the program
might just be a publicity stunt.

``Given the large medical, psychological, and legal uncertainties around
this case, the KNMG considers the chance extremely small that it will ever
come to an organ transplant,'' it said.

All seven of the country's transplant centers had said they not cooperating
with the program, KNMG spokeswoman Saskia van der Ree.

Earlier in the week, the Cabinet declined suggestions from lawmakers to ban
the program, saying that would amount to censorship.

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