Life as an Extreme Sport

Tasteless and Unethical? Sounds Like Reality TV to Me!

In a display of truly questionable ethics that I would only expect from American reality television, a Dutch reality TV show is set to premier – one that has three families competing to win a dying woman’s kidney. The show producers admit that there’s no guarantee that the families will go through this ordeal and receive anything, including a winning kidney – although they hope to skirt Dutch transplant laws by transplanting the kidney while the donor is still alive.

The producers echo the same altruistic motivations any producer of any show that exploits a failing in the medical system (see any number of non-quite-reality-TV airing on American stations right now), that they’re doing it to draw attention to the shortage of organs available for transplant, and that their show isn’t as bad as the reality of the number of people who die every year waiting for transplant.

No, their show is only show bad that three families will compete, beg, plead and do whatever they can to win the sympathy of the voting public and sway the dying donor, regardless of the fact that Dutch law does not allow post-mortem directed donation, that their family is the most deserving.

A few years ago, I wrote about an ABC show by the name of Miracle Workers, and what I said that that show is equally applicable to BNN’s Big Donor Show: when medicine begins competing with television to provide medical services to people in need, when network executives are masquerading as fairy godmothers, we need to ask ourselves: do we want medical care to continue becoming a theatre of entertainment, something we should be lucky to receive? Are you pretty enough, sexy enough, compelling enough to be picked out of a flood of applicants to receive the chance of care? Will your story win the hearts, minds, and most importantly, votes of the viewing public?

-Kelly Hills, with thanks to everyone who sent copies of the story to us!

[It is the ultimate in a TV reality show–organ donation by the dying! American Idol take a back seat to Dying Dutch Decider! -Art Caplan]

Originally posted on the American Journal of Bioethics Editors Blog.

Is 2 Hours and 10 Tries Humane?

The AP is reporting that it took 2 hours and 10 jabs before Ohio prison staff were able to insert shunts to deliver a lethal cocktail to inmate Christopher Newton. Botched executions have become almost common now, with multiple states questioning what the most humane method of execution is, and in at least nine states completely suspending lethal injections while the procedure is re-evaluated.

But this case takes a bizarre turn when you start reading the details. Newton laughed and joked with the prison medical staff while they tried to insert the needles, and he was even allowed a bathroom break during the proceedings. But the truly bizarre comes from just how helpful Newton was in his own case, insisting that the only way he would cooperate with investigators is if they sought the death penalty.

Bizarre aspects to the case aside, Ohio is one of the states that had a botched execution last year. Following the extended execution of Joseph Clark, which took close to 90 minutes due to scarred veins from drug use, the state announced it would make several key changes to how it handled lethal injections, designed to prevent any extended execution process in the future. That these changes were in place for Newton’s execution continues to raise the question of whether or not lethal injection can ever be the swift and painless death it was originally advertised as being.

-Kelly Hills

Originally posted on the American Journal of Bioethics Editors Blog.

FDA Leaves Blood Donation Ban In Place

Despite the criticisms by the Red Cross, America’s Blood Centers, the international blood association AABB, and other blood advocate groups, despite the increasing sophistication of tests to detect HIV, despite the appearance of discriminatory practices, despite thoughtful editorials by respected bioethicists, the FDA has reiterated its long-standing ban on gay men donating blood.

-Kelly Hills

Originally posted at the American Journal of Bioethics Editors Blog.

Flying East? Don’t Forget Your Viagra

Good news for frequent flyers heading east: Viagra appears to offset jetlag. Sadly, it seems to have no effect — at least on jetlag — for those flying west.

After reading the original paper this morning, with several cups of coffee helping to decode the biology, I am left wondering both how Pfizer will pursue this to their best advantage (the risque advertising possibilities seem almost limitless), and less cynically, if it will even work for women at all. As the Women’s Bioethics Blog notes, Viagra does work as an arousal aid for at least some women, so in theory it should help some women with eastbound jetlag. But per the norm in scientific studies, the only mice used were male. Followup study, anyone?

-Kelly Hills

[edited at 1pm EST, May 23rd]

Originally posted at the American Journal of Bioethics Blog.