LOS ANGELES--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Television has the power to shape public attitudes toward a host of topics, and Donate Life Hollywood warns that the new Netflix series “Chambers” could cost lives through its inaccurate portrayal of organ donation.
“Make no mistake, this show will cost some people their lives,” says Dr. Susan Morgan, a researcher at the University of Miami who authored a series of research articles examining the content of entertainment television and the impact of organ donation storylines on viewers’ behaviors and attitudes. The research concludes that fear-based storylines about organ and tissue donation stop people from registering their decision to be a donor, which can deprive potential recipients of a second chance at life. Already, 22 people die every day because the organ they need is not donated in time.
“We understand and support creative storytelling, but writers and producers have to be very careful when it comes to perpetuating damaging myths about organ donation,” says Tenaya Wallace, founder and director of Donate Life Hollywood, a national initiative that serves as a liaison between the donation community and the entertainment industry. “The public does not see the difference between Hollywood storylines and reality. This is because unlike televised sex and violence, the public does not have information or other influences to counter what they see in a fictional story. The public’s fears about organ donation mirror exactly what’s being shown on entertainment television, and that is deadly to the 114,000 men, women and children currently in need of a lifesaving transplant.”
Around the launch of “13 Reasons Why” in March of 2017, suicide prevention experts raised deep and ultimately validated concerns that the show would increase suicide rates. Research showed a link between the way suicide is portrayed in the media and how it impacts young people who are vulnerable and at risk of suicide. The donation community is similarly concerned about the impact of “Chambers” on donation rates.
As a result, the national organ donation and transplant community is calling on Netflix to take actions similar to those implemented around the second season of “13 Reasons Why,” such as adding an advisory video telling viewers about organ donation and pointing viewers to resources on their website. Netflix is also being encouraged to air short videos of actors stating that they are registered as organ donors and hosting an after-show style discussion with actors, experts and educators breaking down myths and sharing truths about donation.
“We know the power of dramatic storytelling and would like to work with Netflix to help save lives,” said Tom Mone, CEO of OneLegacy, the nonprofit organ procurement organization serving Southern California. “The success of organ donation relies on public trust, and fear erodes trust.”
While 95% of the public says they support organ donation, only 58% are registered as donors. Unlike other causes, organ donation research shows that attitude, not just knowledge, is the main driver of behavior.
“A story about paranormal activity linked to organ donation, such as that being planned by ‘Chambers,’ is entertaining. But it will fuel beliefs in myths about organ donation,” said Dr. Morgan. “Netflix is playing on deep-seated fears. And in this case, those fears will actually hurt people waiting for a transplant.”
Donate Life Hollywood is a national campaign run through the OneLegacy Foundation and supported by organ procurement organizations, tissue banks, transplant centers and people personally touched by donation. For more information, visit OneLegacy.org/dlh; or follow us on Twitter @DL_Hollywood.