- The Washington Times - Friday, June 1, 2007

AMSTERDAM — A television show in which a woman would donate a kidney to a contestant was revealed as a hoax yesterday, with presenters saying they were trying to pressure the government into reforming organ donation laws.

Shortly before the controversial program was to air, Patrick Lodiers of the “Big Donor Show” said that the woman was not dying of a brain tumor as claimed and that the entire exercise was intended to add pressure on the government and to raise public awareness of the need for organs.

The three prospective recipients were real patients in need of transplants and had been in on the hoax, the show said.

The program concept had received widespread criticism for being tasteless and unethical.

But Mr. Lodiers said it is “reality that was shocking” because about 200 people die annually in the Netherlands while waiting for a kidney and the average waiting time is more than four years. Under Dutch rules, donors must be friends, or preferably, family of the recipient. Meeting on a TV show wouldn’t qualify.

“I thought it was brilliant, really,” said Caroline Klingers, a kidney patient who was watching the show at a kidney treatment center in Bussum, Netherlands.

“I know these transplant doctors, and I thought they’ll never go and actually do it. But it’s good for the publicity and there are no losers.”

During the show, viewers were called on to express an opinion or vote for their favorite candidate by text message for 47 cents.

The show was produced by Endemol, which created “Big Brother” in 1999.

The Royal Netherlands Medical Association, known by its Dutch acronym KNMG, had urged its members not to participate and questioned whether the program might just be a publicity stunt.

“Given the large medical, psychological and legal uncertainties around this case, the KNMG considers the chance extremely small that it will ever come to an organ transplant,” it said.

All seven of the country’s transplant centers had said they were not cooperating with the program, KNMG spokeswoman Saskia van der Ree.

Earlier in the week, the Cabinet declined suggestions from lawmakers to ban the program, saying that doing so would amount to censorship.

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