Grey's anatomy: tv series harm willingness to donate organs

All over the world, patients are waiting for life-saving donor organs. In Germany alone, there are currently 10.900 people on the waiting list and every eight hours a patient dies because he does not receive a donor organ in time. Health experts and politicians have been discussing for a long time how people's willingness to donate organs can be increased. Since 2012, health insurers have been obliged to regularly send their policyholders information material on organ donation and to ask them to fill out an organ donor card.

Now a recent US study shows that TV series also have an influence on the willingness to donate organs. Using the example of the American medical series "Grey's Anatomy," she showed that especially the The opinion of young – mainly female – viewers between the ages of 18 and 24 is negatively influenced by the portrayal in the series. Now that a German television station has also announced that it will address the ie of organ trafficking in an early evening series, the Techniker Krankenkasse (TK) fears that the fictional portrayal will also have a real impact on the willingness to donate in this country.

"Our surveys show that the better informed people are, the greater their willingness to donate. Lack of information is the most common reason people decide against organ donation. That's why it's important that we provide people with sufficient and correct information on the basis of which they can make a decision for themselves," said Pia Jai, who is responsible at TK for providing information to policyholders on organ donation.

But that is not the only reason. After the Gottingen organ donation scandal two years ago, the image of organ donation has suffered severe damage. At the time, there were policy violations by individual transplant centers to increase the likelihood of liver organ allocation to patients of their own center (more here).

"The irregularities at some German transplant centers certainly didn't help the ie. However, this was not an organ donation scandal, as is often reported, but a waiting list scandal. The doctors' misconduct consisted of presenting people as sicker than they were in their medical records so that they could get a donor organ more quickly. But many people are understandably unsettled by the headlines," says the TK expert.

In a Forsa survey, four out of ten adults in Germany stated that, do not have an organ donor card because they do not yet feel sufficiently informed about the subject. Twelve percent of respondents do not fill out an ID card due to negative reporting. And many don't know that they can also document on their ID card that they don't want to be an organ donor.

The TK therefore fears that a fictitious portrayal of the ie in one of the soap operas with the highest ratings on German television will promote mistrust. "When the topic of transplantation is discussed on television, it is often in connection with organ trafficking. Real life, i.e. young people who get a new chance at life thanks to organ donation, also provides good stories. We would like to see this reflected in the scripts," explains Jai.

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