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Reality Shows Hit Their Lowest Point


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STEP aside Big Brother housemates - three dying contestants competing for a donated kidney will plunge reality television to fresh lows this week.


A terminally ill cancer patient will gift one of her kidneys to one of three recipients chosen by a television audience, in a bizarre Dutch program.


Viewers will watch video clips depicting the three "contestants" chatting about their lives - and then will vote via text message to literally save one.


The identities of the would-be recipients will be kept secret until the program airs, but it is known all are Dutch, and aged between 18 and 40.


Donor Lisa, 37, is believed to have wanted to establish a connection with the recipient of her organ rather than donating anonymously.


She reportedly agreed to participate in the reality program after failing to decide on a suitable recipient herself.


Broadcaster BNN maintains the program is not a desperate ratings grab, but an attempt to highlight the problem of long waiting lists for donor organs.


Network chairman Laurens Drillich said: "The contestants in the show have a 33 per cent chance. That's a much larger chance than if they were on the organ waiting list."


Politicians are threatening to force the network to drop the show before its scheduled broadcast on Friday.


The director of the Dutch Organ Donor Association said he was glad the issue of donor shortages was making news, but he would prefer it was in a less sensational manner.


The program is produced by Endemol, the maker of Big Brother.


A spokeswoman for BNN said that there could be no guarantees the donation would actually be made, ?but the intention is? Lisa's donation would be carried out before she died.


That is because her wish to donate to a particular candidate ?wouldn't be valid anymore after her death? under Dutch donation rules, Marieke Saly said. If Lisa does donate one kidney while living, the other kidney may still be awarded to someone else on a national donation waiting list according under the country's organ allotment system.


Viewers will be able to vote for the candidate they feel is most deserving via SMS text message, but ?Lisa will determine who the happy one is,? BNN said.


Ms Saly could not say how much it will cost to send an SMS, but most TV programs charge around ?1 (US$1.35).


Parliamentarian Joop Atsma of the ruling Christian Democrats said he would try to persuade the health and communications ministers to halt the program. ?I want to block this. This is truly not permissible,? he told NOS radio.


?How are the two rejected candidates supposed to feel after the broadcast??


In Brussels, the European Union Commission, which is due to announce an organ donor policy tomorrow, criticised the program.


?It seems in rather bad taste to do a real TV show on something like this, which is after all a very serious issue,? said EU spokesman Philip Tod.


Paul Beerkens, director of the country's Kidney Institute, said he thought it was ?fantastic? that BNN was drawing attention to the problem of donor shortages.


?But the way in which they're doing this is definitely not our choice,? he was quoted saying by Dutch news agency ANP. ?This is not a structural solution.?


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