Big Donor Show Deemed Hoax

I’m sure many of you have kept tabs on the hoopla this past week surrounding the Dutch National Television’s controversial “The Big Donor Show” , about an apparent 37-year-old woman suffering from an inoperable brain tumor who was going to choose amongst three contestants to donate a kidney to before she passed away.

The show was set to air tonight, but presenters revealed today that the show is a hoax and that the woman is not actually suffering from a brain tumor. The entire show was intended to pressure the government to raise public awareness of the need for organ donations.
Worthwhile publicity stunt or tasteless act?
Let’s hear your thoughts.


5 Responses to Big Donor Show Deemed Hoax

  1. jj in california says:


  2. Manu Varma says:

    Agree with jj, how about “tasteless-but-successful publicity” The drastic shortage of organ donors is the only issue for which I’d think something so crazy would even be remotely justified. But the purported format of the show worried me greatly, and I can’t help but think there have to be better ways to get publicity, even using reality TV. How about Scott on American Idol? 🙂

  3. -Scott (Campaign Manager) says:

    Eeek, yeah, I’m sure ole Simon Caldwell would have a blast mocking my attempt to hit a note.

    We’ve also had an interesting ongoing discussion on the “Big Donor Show” topic on our MySpace blog ( I’ve cross-posted the comments below.



    This is pretty low, no matter what the intention was.

    Posted by Nicole on Friday, June 01, 2007 at 6:02 PM
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    The whole thing was tasteless and insensitive…..

    Posted by Elliottsmama on Saturday, June 02, 2007 at 1:19 AM
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    Man, this is a difficult one. My initial reaction, like so many, was “what the heck are they thinking?!?!”

    Then, the more I thought about it, I could see a variety of angles. Regardless of the hoax – one of the first things they said was they were doing this because of the desperate need for organ donation awareness in the Netherlands.

    There’s that school of thought that says there is no such thing as bad press / bad P.R. – though, in a lot of eyes of those who have attended that school, I imagine this might come close…

    My biggest problem initially was the fact that two “contestants” are going to be dismissed – turned down / let down… But another part of me wondered whether, others, seeing the pain of those “contestants” being let down – whether others might come forward and offer to be a living donor for the two “losers”. There are an awful lot of people in this world – and a lot of good people… This may have been more beneficial than they imagined…

    When it came out that the show was a hoax and the “brain tumor” person was an actress – the first thing my wife hollered about was how awful it must be for the three contestants – but now we understand that they were privy to the situation, and complicit in the hoax… They are legitimate kidney patients, but they knew the show was a hoax from it’s inception.

    The idea for this show may have been less than tactful – but it remains to be seen if they accomplished anything. I wonder how far the hoax would have gone – and if they were planning to go to production and fake the whole thing… It may have been a stupid thing to attempt – but I can’t imagine that they shed a bad light on organ donation (though I’m sure the fact that recipient candidates were complicit doesn’t help some perspectives…)

    If through this foolish stunt, they cause a drastic increase in organ donation awareness in the Netherlands and elsewhere – (Look at all of the stories on all of the news services – some also touch on the reason for the hoax, and touch on donation issues…) might it have been worthwhile?

    Posted by Steve on Saturday, June 02, 2007 at 1:22 AM
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    There’s no such thing as bad publicity. Right?

    Posted by Jeff on Saturday, June 02, 2007 at 9:16 AM
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    Donate Life Illinois

    Thanks for the input, good to hear folks’ thoughts. Here were a few other responses mailed to us:

    “I’ve just replied to a friend on this very subject…highly controversial…I was sickened when I 1st heard of it…now for it to be revealed as a publicity stunt…hmmm…I know it’s made headlines worldwide…I know it’s got folks talking about it…but personally I feel it was a negative not positive as it should have been…so I say tasteless…”
    Cat x

    “I saw a story about this in Chicago and my immediate reaction was “What?! Really? How awful.” I’m quite relieved to hear that it is a hoax! Good for them though. They got my attention!”
    Chicago, IL

    “I saw the previews for this one time and I think it was on a news report. I think this is totally disrespectable to the whole Organ donation and transplant recipient world. It is distasteful and immoral. I know there are certian situations where one person has named a person to get an organ, but those situations are few and far between. To make organ donation and transplantation reality television is to lower the seriousness of it to a show similar to Big Brother or Survivor. It leaves a bad taste in my mouth to even think about a show like this. I can understand the need to raise awareness…but please DO NOT LIE about illness, Do Not treat organ donation and transplantation as some prize to be won off of a reality television show. People die everyday while waiting for a second chance, people die everyday who never really understand organ donation who could have saved at least one life, or at least given someone a second chance at life. That’s my 2 cents on this topic. Whoever thought of this television hoax should be very ahsamed of what they have managed to lower something as fragile as organ donation and transplantation to.”


    “All i have to say is wow what kind of person would think of this man kind is starting to get out of control”

    “Not only was it tasteless… it was the ultimate CRYING WOLF…what happens when someone is really in need?
    I think they should have thought it through. “


    “Completely tasteless. That porbably roused millions of peoples emotionsall fornothing. I saw the headline yester day but I never actually read the story. In all actuality it sounded like a bunch of bullthat’s why I didn’t read it. It didn’t make sense to me that they would turn life and death into a game show.”

    Posted by Donate Life Illinois on Saturday, June 02, 2007 at 9:23 AM
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    Donate Life Illinois

    Some additional folks weighing in:

    “As a person who has a family member that needed an organ transplant, i think that was a horrible way to try and raise awareness. there are so many people waiting for help and imagine somone out there thinking that maybe her donation could be help for them and it’s all a lie.”


    “It’s very sad to give so many people false hope,there has to be a better way, To bring awareness then to give heartbreak to so many on the waiting list.I waited 3 1/2 years.And I know some people have waited longer.GOD BLESS.”

    – Lu

    Posted by Donate Life Illinois on Saturday, June 02, 2007 at 9:28 PM
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    Anastasia mentioned that situations where one person has named another to get an organ are few and far between… Actually — that’s not quite true. Directed donation for deceased donors is less common — However, living donors are another story entirely. In 2006 there were almost 11,000 kidney transplants from deceased donors — but there were also almost 7,000 kidney transplants from living donors. All of those can be considered directed donations — most are living-related, but many are unrelated donors… Had this program been real, this would have been a living-unrelated donation situation…

    Many of the other comments are easily understandable — Faking the brain tumor was unconscionable… And the fact that the three “contestant” kidney patients / candidated were complicent doesn’t shed a very positive light on them… I don’t know that this whole situation would disuade people from donating though…

    Becca mentioned that this was “crying wolf” and “what happens when someone is really in need?” How may this proposed show and ultimate hoax have impacted that? I’m having trouble getting my arms around whether it did or didn’t hurt organ donation and awareness and I would love to hear some opinions beyong the gut reaction that it’s tasteless and immoral…

    I’ll put it out there that I was not a big fan of the whole idea — However, today so many people are accustomed to getting their news and information in tiny little bytes from news stations seemingly delivering news to ADHD folks — there’s not a lot of analytical things going on in the news any longer — just flashy and inflamatory blurbs… And so many folks are so very into the reality programs: I’m not saying that’s a bad thing — but how do you get a message to these folks?

    What would have been a better way?


    Posted by Steve on Saturday, June 02, 2007 at 6:14 PM
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    Donate Life Illinois

    From Cassandra:

    “I guess it depends on the three potential organ recipients. were they in on the hoax too? If so, then I guess it was a worth while publicity stunt. But if they were legitimately needing transplants and they really thought they had a chance, then it could be a pretty crap thing that they did. but I had not heard about it until your bulletin.”

    Yes Cassandra, it is my understanding that the three recipients were aware of the hoax, but are in fact in need of transplants.


  4. -Scott (Campaign Manager) says:

    I mulled over this issue throughout the weekend. It is tricky. I completely understand the reponses tagging this outreach effort as completely tasteless. From a marketing/pr/public outreach perspective, I think there certainly was a more appropriate approach to achieving this goal. I would definitely be enraged if the three contestants had not been in on the act from the beginning. The larger arguement at stake is what a stunt like this will lead to next. If we’re willing to go this far with reality television, how far will society push to make a point?

    On the other end of the spectrum, as reported here:, 18,000 folks downloaded organ donor applications after viewing the show on Friday. That’s huge. Again, the debate rises as to whether those numbers justify the methods used. In addition, at the very least, they have created dialogue. Dialogue amongst worldwide media, dialogue within the blogosphere, etc.

    Bottom line is to be determined by what action is taken next to channel this dialogue and existing momentum in a way that creates actionable results and ultimately accomplishes the crucial goal of helping save lifes of those waiting for a second chance at life.


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