How the TV Media Distorts Organ Donation

A recent public health study has concluded that the mass media is creating an extremely negative picture concerning organ donation. Misleading and inaccurate information is causing many intended donors to shy away from choosing organ donation. Instead of addressing the many real life ethical questions that surround this issue, TV shows and movies are helping to invent totally false situations. These rumors and myths are having a definite effect on real life decisions involving organ donation.

This study was recently conducted by researchers at the University of Purdue. It found that many medical related shows on TV are presenting exaggerated and unfounded programming. Much of this is an attempt to create excitement and conflict as these shows try to outdo each other. It comes down to a shortage of interesting writing and plots as well as talent-deficient acting. That often leads to stretching reality well beyond any reasonable boundaries.

Any regular TV viewer has been witness to the misconceptions found in daytime soaps and prime time medical dramas. For example, the kidnapping or killing of victims to harvest instant organs for sale on the black market. And even more deceptive is the practice of an unethical doctor prematurely ending a life to meet some organ quota. These types of myths are readily seen in made-for-TV movie dramas as well. Even mainstream sit-coms have added in their own fallacies and hysterical rumors.

One of the most common organ donation myths is that of a doctor being paid incentives to harvest fresh organs. This is of course without regard for the patient’s dignity or rights. Another popular TV created myth pertains to wealthy or famous patients. Paying a doctor under-the-table automatically moves them to the top of the organ transplant list. This is based on no certifiable proof. Various public surveys show that a large number of people believe this is actually true. Whenever the media presents a story based on organ donation, hype will usually replace fact.

Recent news stories about actual Third World country black markets were found to be rife with misleading information. The message portrayed was that a large number of licensed hospitals are involved in the illegal sale of organs. This kind of insensitive story telling is causing much damage to the potential base of willing organ donors. Once again the mass-media industry has twisted and misconstrued the facts to meet its own heartless needs. All that counts is the continuous need to invent programming that serves the desires of greedy advertisers and marketers.

Organ donation is a real-life decision. It can and does save lives. It gives hope to those who are left with no other alternatives. Making the decision to become an organ donor is often difficult enough without all the delusion thrown in. There are often ethical and religious considerations that a prospective donor needs to sort out. It is a personal decision that should be made based on true knowledge.

This study shows that the entertainment media is doing far more harm than good. While it involves saving lives in the real world, the media industry prefers to over-hype and sensationalize in its TV dream world. When you think about it, there might be many lives that have been lost due to the fear created by these shows. Fewer donors means fewer available organs.

To help overcome the spread of these myths, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services is becoming involved. Nearly $2 million will be spent to raise awareness and inform the public of the merits of organ donation. It would only be fair if the TV media put “saving lives” on the front burner for a change. They could pay for TV ads that would present the true facts of becoming an organ donor. Perhaps they could undo some of the damage they have caused.

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