Organ Donor TV Show Triggers Condemnation(dying patient allows viewers to vote)

Published: May 31, 2007
Filed at 12:28 p.m. ET

AMSTERDAM (Reuters) – A Dutch TV station’s plan to air a reality show during which a dying woman will choose a recipient for her kidneys has triggered condemnation in Europe.

“Desperation becomes a spectacle in the Netherlands,” said Italian newspaper Del Corriere Della Sera.

This is a “macabre contest,” the Times of London said.

When the 80-minute show airs on Friday, a 37-year-old woman with a brain tumor, identified only as “Lisa,” will pick one of three candidates with kidney problems, based on their history and conversations with their families and friends.

Viewers are encouraged to advise her via text messages.

Public broadcaster BNN said the idea was to highlight the growing shortage of organ donors in the Netherlands and the show would also serve as a tribute to its founder who died of kidney failure five years ago despite several transplants.

Only the Dutch could spawn such a show, said conservative German newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, referring to the steady stream of reality TV shows like “Big Brother” and “Fear Factor” from Dutch producers.

“The idea is so disgusting that it could only come from Dutch TV,” it said. Endemol, famous for producing the two pioneering reality TV shows, is also producing the donor show.

Website BellaOnline, which calls itself the voice of women, questioned whether Dutch TV had gone too far.

BNN made headlines some years back with a show called “Shooting and Swallowing” underlining the impact of drug use, and another show on sex called “This is How You Screw.”

Local media and Dutch people have been similarly critical.

“Social involvement is seen in another perspective if the suffering of one serves as entertainment for another,” De Volkskrant wrote in an editorial.

In a poll of 3,150 people conducted by mass-selling daily De Telegraaf, about two-thirds of respondents said they would not watch the show. Some called it “tasteless” and “harrowing.”

Callers to a local radio station even suggested the whole thing could be a hoax by BNN to boost its ratings.

The broadcaster has brushed off such criticism and said it was ready to go ahead with the one-episode show and the transplant.

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