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Clin Transplant. 2011 Jul-Aug;25(4):E375-80. doi: 10.1111/j.1399-0012.2011.01427.x. Epub 2011 Mar 16.

Portrayal of organ donation and transplantation on American primetime television.

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Summer Surgery Student Research Program, Department of Surgery, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI, USA.


Recently, both living and deceased organ donation rates have hit a plateau, despite increases in need for viable organs. One approach to improve donation rate is public education and policy; thus, it is necessary to understand the information the public is receiving regarding organ donation. We hypothesized that primetime medical dramas portray organ donation and transplantation in a negative manner. We compiled data on all primetime medical drama episodes with transplant themes from November 2008 through June 2010 and assessed depictions of organ donors and transplant candidates. Positive and negative thematic elements surrounding the process and individuals involved were also identified. One hundred and fifty-five million and 145 million households watched episodes containing any negative message and any positive message, respectively. Episodes containing only negative messages had over twice the household viewership per episode compared to episodes containing only positive messages (8.4 million vs. 4.1 million, p = 0.01). Widespread exposure to these representations may reinforce public misconceptions of transplantation. The transplant community should consider the popularity of medical dramas as an opportunity to impact the perception of organ donation and transplantation for millions of Americans.

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