Yes, organ and tissue donation are exciting, medically provocative and timely – what more can a Hollywood writer ask for? Perhaps that is why the April 2nd episode of ABC’s Body of Proof tore the topic of rabies transmission through transplantation directly from the headlines. Less than three weeks following the first public report of the second U.S. case transmitted through solid organ transplantation and weeks after the season premier of the show, writer Alexi Hawley’s hastily written script might well have benefited from better editing and consideration of responsibility to the public.Sure rabies transmission can – and has – occurred through tissue transplantation. But creation of a plot based on people vanishing from their lives to become victims of a serial tissue “harvester” and the pervasive use of callous, insensitive terminology such as the “dead body” were simply uncalled for.
How can any uninformed layperson who saw this episode’s fileted open extremities within the context of a serial murder body snatcher seeking to “harvest tissue” ever be expected to respond favorably to a real opportunity to donate tissues +/or organs? Repeated references to the “dead body” and the “cadaver” only deepened the portrayal of lack of respect for the human beings at the center of the story.
It is time for Hollywood and the entire entertainment industry to harness the power they control to consistently deliver truthful messages about transplantation and donation. Yes, stories such as rabies transmission make for easy fodder. Retelling them in responsible ways will not limit the drama. It will require a bit more energy on the parts of writers and producers. It is well worth the effort, as one never knows who will be waiting next in line to be a recipient of this good will.