BNN, a Dutch TV station, is planning a new reality show, De Groote Donor Show, where a terminally ill woman, known as Lisa, will chose a recipient for her kidney from three donors.
The format of the programme is that Lisa will make her choice based on the contestants’ history, profile and conversation with their family and friends. It’s not stated whether she’ll be meeting the potential recipients.
Strictly speaking there isn’t a ‘vote’ as stated in the BBC article, but viewers will also be able send SMS reflecting their opinion. I suppose on the basis that at points during the show the compere will indicate that x% prefer candidate A.
There’s been quite an outcry over this in the Netherlands, and in countries where it’s been reported. If you read through the comments on the BBC site there’s a sharp divide between on opinion – with most being against.
Much of the discussion is about how they are making entertainment out of a disease for commercial gain. Which ignores that the show is being made
- to commemorate the life of the founder of the production company Bart de Graaff who died while waiting for a kidney transplant
- with the stated aim of raising awareness of the lamentable rate of organ donation in the Netherlands
- with public funding, if I understand correctly the production company is at least partly state funded
But really what is the ethical question here?
- the donor is terminally ill so is risking nothing
- under Dutch law if you donate an organ while you’re alive you can chose the recipient
- the three potential recipients have a better chance on this show of getting a kidney in the short term than if they did nothing but stay on the list – ie: a 1/3 chance of getting their new kidney this year.
- all recipients have been checked by drs as suitable candidates and remain under medical supervision
- the unsuccessful participants are no worse off than when they started – they remain on the waiting list
- the donor gets to do something useful
- the whole controversial show gets the discussion about donating going and raises awareness (this is already happening)
- there is a real chance that donation rates go up and lives will be saved.
The only doubt I really have is the impact on the two unsuccessful candidates. They will inevitably be incredibly disappointed and I don’t think I want to see that.
I’m hoping the show is made with some sensitivity, showing the truth about the issue of organ donation, I’m hoping that the awareness raised leads to some changes in the process to become a donor here. I’m hoping more people sign up to be a donor.
I don’t mind if there’s some humour in it, or if there’s a cynical edge, but I really hope it’s not the circus the naysayers are portraying it as.
[disclaimer: I am registered as a donor, so that on my death any organs that are useful can be used by someone else. I don’t think I would donate a kidney while I was still alive except perhaps to a close family member]