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31 May 2007
BRUSSELS (AP) - As the European Union's health chief, Markos Kyprianou comes across a lot of unsavoury situations.
Little prepared him though for Dutch television's ''Big Donor Show,'' which will have three contestants vying for the kidney of a terminally ill woman on Friday.
''Me, personally I have to say I was shocked by this idea. And I am not shocked easily,'' Kyprianou said during the presentation of his proposals to increase organ donations and transplants in the 27-nation EU.
But as he was seeking to highlight the issue of organ donation and persuade more people into becoming donors, the Dutch show could not have given Kyprianou more publicity.
The idea of Friday's show drew primarily negative reactions across Europe on Wednesday, with many saying it was crass and unethical.
''This is not the way I would have chosen to create awareness and raise publicity when it comes to such a sensitive and emotional issue,'' said Kyprianou.
The Dutch network BNN, which will produce the show, said it was meant to draw attention to the hundreds of people who die each year for lack of a kidney transplant, arguing that the reality was more shocking than a mere television program.
Kyprianou released figures showing 10 patients a day die because no donor organ is found in time for them in the EU, and there are 40,000 Europeans waiting for a transplant.
The founder of BNN suffered from a kidney disease and underwent a transplant, but his body rejected the organ. He died five years ago at age 35.
During the planned show, a 37-year-old woman suffering from an inoperable brain tumour will choose a possible recipient for one of her kidneys from among three contestants.
''With this kind of tasteless - we know it's tasteless - tasteless television show in which we're going to do this, we're trying to get a lot of attention for organ donorship,'' said BNN Chairman Laurens Drillich.
''Who wants to win my kidney?'' headlined the French newspaper Liberation, setting the tone for the negative coverage.
''It is totally unacceptable to use people's misfortune and illness in this way and to make people's suffering into entertainment,'' said Sweden's Health Minister Goran Hagglund.
In Germany, the president of the federal doctor's association, Joerg-Dietrich Hoppe, called it a ''macabre game centring on human need.''
''We urgently need a European consensus on values that prevents this dishonorable display of human misery,'' he added.
There was widespread condemnation in Britain too. Ray Mackey, co-chairman of the British National Kidney Federation, called the plan for the show ''totally abhorrent.''
''As a transplant patient of two years, it's a non-starter,'' he told the Manchester Evening News. ''It just seems totally the shock factor that they are going for,'' he said. To go through that traumatic thing on the television, it doesn't bear thinking about.''
Belgian senator Dr. Patrik Vankrunkelsven said ''they use human misery to boost their television ratings and increase advertising sales.''
In London, market trader Eileen Keegin, 45, said the show revealed what state television programming was in. ''Reality television has sunk to a new depth. I just think they are running out of ideas, I really do.''
If given the chance however, Ishoh Pedro, 27, said he would gladly tune in. ''We're all sick and deluded. We find pleasure in watching other people's pain.''
[Copyright AP 2007]
Subject: Dutch news
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