June 01, 2007

Dutch Kidney Donor Reality Show a Hoax

April 1st seems to be few months late this year; the Dutch reality television show that some of us got opinionated on, The Big Donor, aired today, and in the last moments of the telecast, was revealed to be a hoax. Straight from MSNBC:

In the last minutes of the program, [“Lisa,” the 37-year-old woman who had been said to have been suffering from a brain tumor] was revealed as a healthy actress and program makers stunned viewers by saying ”The Big Donorshow” was a hoax.

The contestants were also part of the deception, although all three are genuine kidney patients.

“Their life is bitter reality,” the presenter said after revealing the deception, just at the moment at which Lisa was to have made her choice.

So now, of course, BNN is getting heaps of praise for drawing attention to the plight of those waiting for transplants, and the shortage of organs that exist. The Dutch education minister has said it was a fantastic stunt, and an excellent way to draw attention to the shortage in donated organs.

Er - really? I'm not sure heated water cooler debate over whether or not something is tasteless and going too far is really the best way to draw attention to an issue that needs addressing. Taking the example of The Big Donor, which apparently ran appeals for viewers to donate organs through-out its broadcast: does creating an emotional or gut-wrenching scenario, then revealing it to be a hoax at the end, really result in people saying "oh, well, I'll still donate", or do you end up with a more negative association? Feeling bad, feeling generous, and then feeling taken.

I don't know. The makers of the program say they hope that people's outrage over the show, and the hoax, will turn into outrage at the shortage of organs. Whether or not it will simply remains to be see. But they were right on one count - the show has certainly got people talking.
-Kelly Hills

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