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.