Tara Brown's 'The Gift' To Inspires People To Become Organ Donors


Scott Ellis
Death, and almost anything to do with it, is something most television programs tackle only as a plot device.

Someone is killed and the detectives set out to catch the killer; an accidental passing leaves a ghost looking for answers; a parent shuffles off this mortal coil and their children come together; any number of variations on this theme show up daily as a way for writers to help move the action along.

And that's where the topic usually ends. Death on screen is something that happens (excuse the pun) in passing and anyone who tries to change that had better have a good reason.

The makers of The Gift, premiering on Channel Nine this week, have found that reason. By personalising death, they hope to save lives.

From this week, the series hosted by 60 Minutes reporter Tara Brown will follow the stories of Australian organ donors and recipients.

It's a tough subject, Brown says, but one that has the power to change lives.

"I think what this series does so well is it shows out of this great sadness of death is also the great joy it can bring both to the family of the person who has died and also to those people to whom the gift has given life," Brown says. "Ultimately, it's a very uplifting and rewarding experience.

"The Gift is not trying to preach from some high and mighty pulpit - I certainly don't see that as the aim of the show - but the message that the doctors and those involved would like to get across is just how amazing this gift is and that if people can understand how it can transform lives then they may be more likely to help out."

The message that one donor can make a world of difference to many lives is central to The Gift.

Throughout the series, Brown introduces a range of people with life-threatening conditions who can only be saved by transplants.

Some are lucky enough to be left an organ but many are left waiting and hoping.

"There's such great frustration that the thing that is costing these people their lives is the waiting game," Brown says. "While they wait, their own organs are failing them."

Already an organ donor, Brown says she hopes viewers will be moved by watching the program and think about adding their names to the list of people willing to give such a life-saving gift.

"Most people don't want to think about their death at all," Brown says. "It's almost as though they think they are going to live forever. [Organ donation] is not that hard a decision. It makes sense to me and I think when [viewers] see the lives that these decisions transform - how it can make these lives - then there really is no reason not to do it."

The big donor hoax

Brown and the producers of The Gift are aware that mixing organ donation and television is a tricky affair.

A Dutch series caused international controversy this year by offering three kidney transplant patients the chance to win the much-needed organ in a reality show.

That series, The Big Donor Show, turned out to be a hoax, with an actress playing the donor and three real patients in on the scam to highlight the need for more people to join the donor program.

Hoax or not, the howls of outrage showed just how sensitive the area can be.

The Gift, Thursday 9.30pm, Channel Nine.

"The IOC has always respected Seven's loyalty," he said.

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