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ADVANCE Discourse: Lab

From ‘Big Brother' to Hospital Debacle: A HIPAA Nightmare

Published April 12, 2012 8:06 AM by Valerie Newitt

Few Americans are aware that the TV hit "Big Brother" first debuted on Dutch television. The diminutive Netherlands has made some bold moves in television-land. For example, there was "De Grote Donorshow" (The Big Donor Show) broadcast in 2007. The program featured a supposedly terminally ill 37-year-old woman donating a kidney to one of 25 people requiring a kidney transplantation. After eliminations, three people remained. Viewers were entreated to send text messages essentially voting for who they thought should get the kidney!

In time, it was revealed that the show was partially a hoax. The "terminally ill" potential donor was an actress and she had no kidneys to spare. However the three patients really were in need of a kidney. They knowingly participated in the hoax to bring attention to the need for organ donors." Talk about an unsatisfying ending.

The latest Dutch TV/healthcare collision was in March. VU university teaching hospital in Amsterdam, broadcaster RTL and television production company Eyeworks had planned a reality TV show set in the hospital's ED. Things were moving right along, with 35 hidden cameras installed in the ED to record the action. Can you imagine a more explosive HIPAA-busting situation?

Indeed, several patients were filmed without their consent, breaking NL's own patient confidentiality rules. And that meant mid-season cancellation.

VU university, RTL and Eyeworks are splitting the 188,000 Euro cost of the cancelled show, but that may be the tip of the iceberg (or, in Dutch "ijsberg"). The patients have launched damages claims against all three parties.

Lesson learned? It's never a good idea to put "Candid Camera" inside a healthcare facility. Just sayin'....

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