Tuesday, May 29, 2007

This Is Really Your Life

Only one day after my site, StopPagingMe.com, wrote about a busted Pakistani organ-harvesting ring, news comes from Holland that a new reality show is inflaming medical ethicists all over the world.

The bioethics committees of the world must be really sitting around those tables and philosophizing now. Discussing and mulling; reviewing and reiterating; talking and talking and talking -- all about kidney transplants.

What exactly has their undergarments in a bind? A Dutch reality show plans to have three people compete for the kidney of a terminally ill 37-year-old woman. While viewers at home can register their opinion as they learn about the hopeful recipients, the ultimate decision will be made by the donor herself. So what's the big fuss about? What is so strange about a woman dying of brain cancer auctioning off her kidney to three strangers all on Dutch national television?

Ok. We do see why it could be construed as objectionable of The Big Donorshow (that title is not a joke), but the show's network, BNN, argues that the show highlights the shortage of organ donors and is a tribute to its founder, Bart de Graaft, who died of kidney failure five years ago despite several transplants.

Dutch newspaper De Telegraaf felt differently: "It is a sickening attempt to turn a serious subject about life and death into a form of entertainment, rather than a serious new attempt to try and get more donors," they said in an editorial.

The government has also spoke up about kidney disease becoming the next reality star: "The intention of the program to get more attention for organ donation may be applaudable," quoted Dutch Education and Culture Minister Ronald Plasterk.

"However based on the information I now have, the program appears to me to be inappropriate and unethical because it is a competition," said Plasterk.

While we agree that any attention given to the subject of organ transplantation and donation is probably good attention, we also agree that this may not be the best way to spread the word. It may, in fact, have a negative impact on those who were considering donation as reality shows do not exactly lend credibility to their subjects (see: every reality show ever - except, maybe, The Biggest Loser).

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