Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Let's make a Deal.

I tend to avoid discussions of news events on this blog mainly because I save my remaining brain cells for political debate in private with Monkey, Sr. and a few select individuals. Plus, I work out intensely at the gym to achieve an endorphin high that I hate to lose with thoughts of the state of the world.

Once in awhile though, certain things shatter the pink bubblegum world I live in ... terrorist plots to blow up JFK airport, the death toll in Iraq, human rights abuses in Islamic countries ... and stories involving organ donation. I pay attention to those for obvious reasons.

For any newcomers to this blog, I wouldn't be posting the happy pictures I do but for the fact that someone came through for my son when he needed a heart transplant. Hi Nikki.

So, a story came to my attention about a game show in the Netherlands whose premise involved a dying woman willing to give her kidney to one of three contestants vying for the "prize." Each of the contestants was in need of a transplant, and the woman would decide, with audience participation, who was the most worthy of her gift of life. Here's a link.

The show caused a sensation in the Netherlands with charges of tastelessness and questionable ethics. The Dutch Parliament debated whether to allow it to air.

It turns out, the show was a big hoax. The woman was not dying. She was just an actress. The contestants, although in need of a kidney, knew this was all a hoax; and they were in on it. The show's producers say they concocted this elaborate farce to raise awareness of the need for organ donation in the Netherlands. Unlike much of the rest of Europe, Dutch laws on organ donation make it harder for recipients to find organs in time.

Honestly, the whole thing makes me really sad. It takes actions like this to get people talking about the issue? How did it make actual people who needed a kidney transplant feel watching this show and see people compete to win a kidney? What does it say about audience members willing to watch this show and vote on who has the best sob story most deserving of the prize?

But what if all the media attention resulted in just one person deciding to register to be an organ donor? What if one day that person's decision saves another human being's life? Is that alone worth the momentary discomfort of seeing human tragedy exploited for entertainment and shock value?

Obviously, our family has some experience with media efforts at organ donor awareness. For the most part, we had a very positive series of encounters with kind individuals who gave us a chance to talk about Jordan's story and what organ donation was about. We had no idea what we were getting into, and no idea that the story would explode the way it did.

We also had some bitter experiences with the media and certain individuals who questioned our morality at making our appeal a public one. Some people went on the air to suggest that our actions were inappropriate because other, less educated people, with less access to media resources, would not be able to launch the same degree of effort in their cases.

Those charges hurt me to this day. I will never forget how I felt when I sat there in the hospital waiting room and watched a woman appear on a television interview to say that what we were doing was wrong. I will also never forget the countless individuals - friends and strangers, who wrote to me to tell me that because of Jordan's story, they registered to be organ and bone marrow donors. There were many of them. I wonder how many lives they will be saving in the future.

Maybe this stunt in the Netherlands was a good thing. Maybe it was tasteless. Who am I to judge?

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