TV show's prize: one kidney for transplant

Published May 30, 2007

AMSTERDAM, Netherlands - A Dutch reality show that claims to be trying to draw attention to a shortage of organ donors said Tuesday it would go ahead with a program in which a terminally ill woman will choose a contestant to receive one of her kidneys.

The program, Big Donor Show, has been attacked as unethical and tasteless. One member of the Dutch Parliament suggested the government should block Friday's broadcast.

"We know that this program is super controversial, and some people will think it's tasteless, but we think the reality is even more shocking and tasteless: Waiting for an organ is just like playing the lottery, " Laurens Drillich, chairman of the BNN network, said in a statement.

He said that waiting lists in the Netherlands are more than four years long and that 200 patients die annually for lack of a donor.

The network identified the donor as "Lisa, " a 37-year-old woman with an inoperable brain tumor.

During the show, she will hear interviews with the three candidates, their families and friends before choosing who will get her kidney.

A spokeswoman for BNN said that there could be no guarantees the donation would actually be made, "but the intention is" Lisa's donation would be carried out before she died.

That is because her wish to donate to a particular candidate "wouldn't be valid anymore after her death" under Dutch donation rules, Marieke Saly said.

If Lisa does donate one kidney while living, the other kidney may still be awarded to someone else on a national donation waiting list under the country's organ allotment system.

Viewers will be able to vote for the candidate they feel is most deserving, but "Lisa will determine who the happy one is, " BNN said in a statement.

There was doubt whether Lisa's organs could be donated at all because it might spread her cancer.

Another possible barrier to the transplant is the need for the tissue of the donor and recipient to match as closely as possible, Education Minister Ronald Plasterk said.