- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 29, 2007

12:53 p.m.

AMSTERDAM (AP) The network behind a Dutch reality show that claims to be trying to draw attention to a shortage of organ donors said today 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 that the government should block Friday’s broadcast.

“We know that this program is supercontroversial, 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,” said Laurens Drillich, chairman of the BNN network, in a statement.

He said waiting lists in the Netherlands are more than four years long and 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.

The show is being produced by Endemol NV, creator of the Dutch “Big Brother” series.

A spokeswoman for BNN said there could be no guarantees the donation would actually be made, “but the intention is” for Lisa’s donation to be carried out before she dies.

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 donates 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 via text message, but “Lisa will determine who the happy one is,” BNN said in a statement.

Joop Atsma, a lawmaker of the ruling Christian Democrats, raised the issue in parliament, asking the government whether the program violated any law.

“Is it desirable that public broadcasting would go down this path, and is there no way to send a strong signal that we reject this?” he asked.

Education Minister Ronald Plasterk, addressing parliament on behalf of the government because the health minister was ill, replied that there were serious questions about whether the transplant actually would go through as BNN has advertised it — but that there was no way to stop the program from airing.

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