Given the global coverage of the apparent plans of the Big Donor Show (a reality programme where a dying woman will choose a donor for one of her kidneys), it is hard not to feel that the producers’ apparent objective of drawing attention to a shortage of organ donors has been achieved.
Laurens Drillich, chairman of the BNN network in the Netherlands behind the programme is reported as saying:
“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.”
It is hard not to argue with the sentiment here – and the genuine involvement of the station given that its founder Bart de Graaff, died five years ago, aged just 35 from kidney failure after years on the transplant waiting list.
The approach illustrates the challenges facing campaigners and public relations practitioners working with health issues. Would the media show such interest in a regular awareness campaign? Would the public? Undoubtedly, the strategy here has got people talking about this issue – the “shock appeal” has worked in generating coverage.
But, will it achieve any aims beyond publicity? I doubt it – the politicians have been busy decrying the alleged programme but not acknowledging its underlying message.
Campaigners need a change in public attitude towards registering and offering organs for donation – whilst the politicians seriously need to consider whether opt out donor schemes would be better than the current opt in ones.
Although the topic has been back on the agenda today – it is unlikely to have changed attitudes or behaviour. And it has undoubtedly ranked up the “shock” levels required to generate such media attention just a little bit more.