June 5th, 2007 | Penlight
It’s all a hoax. For those of you who are up on your “weird news of the week”, I’m sure you’ve heard about the new game show that aired in the Netherlands Friday. Called In der grote DonorShow(The Big DonorShow), it featured a woman with a terminal illness who was to choose a recipient for her kidney from three contestants. And you thought Flavor of Love was bad.
Last week I thought I was going to scoop everyone with the news. I put a small post up on my blog about this, plus I sent the link to a few coworkers, but everyone had already heard about it. Under my news alerts for “organ donation”, every story was about this show. The EU issued a strong denunciation, calling it unethical and inappropriate. Amidst the furor, the EU’s Health Chief released a plan today to increase organ donation in Europe.
Saturday, an ever faithful commenter to my blog sent me a link to the BBC, announcing it was all a hoax. Just when I had a nearly completed post, too.
What if it were real? What if some people were so desperate for an organ that they’d go on a game show to win one? That’s about what I think of people who sign up on websites to find a (living) donor. Pay a $600 fee and maybe they’ll find someone willing to give you a kidney. There are also websites where if you agree to be an organ donor, they will put you on a list and if someone else, who also agrees to be an organ donor, actually becomes an organ donor, they will donate to those people from the website as a directed donor. How does this work? When you donate a family member’s organs, you can bypass the UNOS allocation system by “directing” that certain organs go to specific named individuals, as long as they match and both donor and recipient are medically suitable. While this is certainly appropriate in the case of a pre-existing relationship, I think it goes without saying that artificially “forcing” a match in this fashion preys upon desperate people. One could argue that the “contestants”, the potential recipients, are grown adults and know what they’re getting into. Whether you think that they’re victims being taken advantage of or not isn’t really my biggest issue. With people going online to find living donors, I think it is ripe for the potential of the living donors to be given incentives by the potential recipient-money, gifts, things above and beyond the cost of recovery. And that is buying an organ. For those looking to be put on a “directed donor” list, it really is a gamble. Fewer than 1% of all deaths result in brain death AND are medically suitable to donate their organs. Most of us (more than 99% of us, actually) will never be organ donors.
Here’s my second beef with the “find your own donor” crowd. In my experience, people who are strongly against organ donation fall into two groups: the first is afraid of being “cut up”. These are the folks who say, “I’m going to heaven with everything I came with.” I’ll save them for another post. The second don’t want their gift going to anyone “unworthy.” I had a long debate in the comments section of my blog one time with a woman who wouldn’t donate her own or her family members’ organs unless she was guaranteed to know who the recipients were, HIPAA be damned. Another row started in my comments section recently when a person was offended that a prisoner got an organ. When private people start matching up, they’re going to want the right to “veto” who gets their gift. I once had a doctor tell me, “Why are you going to take his organs, so another drug addict can get a new liver?” You want my take on innocent victims? Read this. All I can say is that when you start saying that prisoners and drug addicts can’t have your organs, it is a steep, sharp slope to saying that Jews, or African Americans, or gay people can’t have your organs. The gift should be given altruistically. I could argue for hours about how transplant centers screen people and make sure that they’re going to be physically, emotionally, mentally and financially able to care for their gift of life. But if someone’s going to say, “Well, I want a say in where my organs go or I’m not going to donate,” they’re really telling me is that if they can’t have control, they’ll let their organs go in the ground. Like a little kid: if you don’t play by my rules I’m taking my toys and going home. And that makes no sense to me.
As for this game show hoax? I think it’s brilliant. Like those anti-smoking commercials where everyone falls to the ground and plays dead in front of the tobacco company offices. I think it’s a great bit of satire highlighting the need for organ donors. You know what, though? Those three “contestants” from the Netherlands aren’t actors. They still need kidneys and so do hundreds of thousands of other people around the globe. So forget the rest of the crap and just donate already.