Organ donation and transplantation myths in movies and television serials have a negative impact on the programme
Generally medical themes make for winning plots and there are many successful movies and television serials that have used these themes to keep their audience asking for more. ‘The Beautiful Mind’ depicting schizophrenia, ‘The King's Speech’ based on a speech impediment and television’s ‘Grey’s Anatomy’ that dramatised different areas of medicine are just a few of the many examples. However, themes related to organ donation and transplantation are always projected with sensationalism. It started many years ago with the medical thriller ‘Coma’ where carbon monoxide was used in the hospital pipes instead of oxygen to kill patients and steal their organs. Just a small problem... carbon monoxide as a gas when it replaces oxygen will not only kill the brain, but will also make all other organs unviable. The same plot was used many years later in a recent Tamil movie called ‘Kakki Sattai.’
The success of deceased donor transplantation and the occasional reports of organ commerce has meant that this subject is often misrepresented and over the last five years has been used to create high drama. ‘Selling my kidney for money’ is used quite frequently in movie dialogues and has become relatively common parlance without even an afterthought in Indian television serials as well.
In the Hindi film ‘Andhadhun’ many segments show in a very casual manner kidneys, liver, and corneas being sold in India. In fact, it even shows a doctor removing kidneys in an unhygienic environment. In reality, selling kidneys is illegal and kidneys removed in such a manner cannot be used for transplants and will only go into a bin. Another Tamil movie ‘Yennai Arindhaal’ shows Indians involved in an international organ theft network - killing local people and stealing their organs. What all these movies depict have no scientific, medical, legal, or moral basis. There are movies that range from the downright ludicrous to the realistically implausible. So on the one hand there is a Hindi film ‘Diya aur Toofan’ where a human brain transplant is shown in the most absurd of settings, while on the other there is the series ‘Breathe’ on Amazon Prime that shows a father who is a cop killing people (registered donors) of a rare blood group because his son needs a lung transplant.
What most story writers or directors miss is that you can’t just kill someone and take their organs and you can’t just create brain death by killing someone. Most of these far-fetched plots that revolve around organ donation create fear in the minds of people who may genuinely wish to donate their organs after their death, especially after brain death when one can recycle the whole body.
These plots neither show any requirement for consent or for declaring brain death before organs are removed, nor do they attempt to apprise the audience about the legal framework in the country.
The MOHAN Foundation team finds that whenever this kind of negativism about organ donation is perpetuated by our visual media, it has a profound impact on the minds of our gullible public. The fear psychosis it creates leads to loss of trust in the system. Many people refuse to pick up donor cards after a promotional talk about organ donation and quite a few who have pledged to donate have withdrawn their consent. The censor board too seems to be totally ignorant of the laws that govern the field of organ donation and transplantation in India.
Today there is a trust deficit in the health care system. Therefore, it is important to have films that deal with sensitive issues like organ donation and transplantation shown to a board of experts before they obtain a censor certificate.
- Copyright © 2020. Published by MOHAN Foundation
- Keywords: schizophrenia,‘Grey’s Anatomy’, ‘Coma’, carbon monoxide,