Dutch Organ Donor Reality Show A Hoax

Aalsmeer, NETHERLANDS: Picture shows the 3 candidates in the much talked about Big Donor Show that aired on Friday, 01 June 2007, in Aalsmeer. After the big interest shown by foreign media for the Dutch television purporting show to feature a dying woman deciding who will receive one of her kidney, the Dutch television announced that it was a hoax today. AFP PHOTO/VINCENT JANNINK ***THE NETHERLANDS OUT*** (Photo credit should read VINCENT JANNINK/AFP/Getty Images)
Getty Images/AFP/Vincent Jannink
A television show in which a woman would donate a kidney to a contestants was revealed as a hoax Friday. Presenters said they were trying to pressure the government into reforming organ donation laws.

At the last moment, presenter Patrick Lodiers of the "Big Donor Show" said the woman known as "Lisa" was an actress, not actually dying of a brain tumor as claimed.

The entire exercise was intended to pressure the government into reforming its organ donation laws and 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 led to widespread criticism for being tasteless and unethical.

But Lodiers said that it was "reality that was shocking," because around 200 people die annually in the Netherlands while waiting for a kidney; the average waiting time is more than four years.

"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."

The Netherlands' doctors association had called on members not to participate in the program, and questioned its authenticity.

"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.

Arnoud Veilvris, a patient awaiting a kidney donor, found the idea of the show distasteful but felt the hoax served a purpose. "I think that it is good that the show delivered a shock whereby the problem is now again at the top of the political agenda," Veilvris said.

The show was produced by Endemol, which created "Big Brother" in 1999, introducing the concept of reality TV.

Viewers were called on to vote for their favorite candidate by SMS text message for a small fee per vote during the show.

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

BNN had said the donation would happen before Lisa's death. But doctors often refuse to accept organ donations from terminally ill patients because the operation could hasten their death.

Under Dutch rules, donors must be friends, or preferably family, of the organ recipient. Meeting on a television program wouldn't qualify.

BNN was founded by a Dutch entertainer who was famous for ratings stunts, reports CBS News correspondent Richard Roth. He died of kidney failure five years ago.

BNN spokeswoman Marieke Saly had said earlier Friday that all arrangements for the program were completed, but she declined to comment on where and when the donation would be carried out.

"It's going through," she said.