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Shocking and tasteless, but the Big Donor Show may have paid off

TV Stunt Succeeds

DW staff with wire reports (emw)
July 18, 2007

A reality TV stunt condemned as sick and unethical around the world may have actually achieved its aims. The Dutch health ministry said thousands had registered to donate organs since the show aired.


More than 12,000 people in the Netherlands have registered as organ donors since the broadcast of "The Big Donorshow" on June 1, when three contestants vied for the kidney of a dying woman.

The show was revealed to be a hoax at the end of the broadcast, with the role of the "Lisa," who was purportedly suffering from a brain tumor, being played by an actress.

The Dutch television network BNN and producers Endemol said they wanted to highlight the desperate need for organ donors in the Netherlands, which has once of the lowest organ donation rates in Europe.

Niederlande Fernsehen Nieren Show BNN Bart de Graaff
Bart de Graaff, in 1999Image: picture-alliance/ dpa

Tribute to founder

BNN, a channel aimed at young people, screened the show on the fifth anniversary of the death of its founder, Bart de Graaff. He died after waiting seven years for a kidney donation.

The Dutch health ministry released a statement this week revealing a sharp jump in the number of people joining the organ donor registry, with 43,000 forms being downloaded from its Web site in the weeks after "The Big Donorshow" was aired.

Of the 12,000 registrations in the last six weeks, 64 percent were people who had never previously been listed as organ donors. The donor registry normally receives between 3,000 and 4,000 forms each month.

Shock tactics pay off

Niederlande Fernsehen Nieren Show BNN
Presenter Patrick Lodiers revealed the truthImage: AP

Around 1.2 million people watched the program, which BNN defended, saying it wanted to create public awareness about the suffering of those waiting for transplants in the Netherlands, where the average waiting time for a kidney transplant is more than four years.

Although the competition was a sham, the three candidates were genuine patients in need of kidney transplants.

"Their life is bitter reality," the presenter said, after revealing the truth at the moment when Lisa was to have made her choice.

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