Bypass Movie – Bypassing (some of) the facts for a thrill?
Dr. Harriet Etheredge
Posted on May 15, 2017
I’m a fan of thrillers and 100% behind SA’s burgeoning performing arts. “Bypass” is a South African transplant movie, and I went to see it. I thought the story-line was quite compelling with elements of love, suspense, surprise and a twist-in-the-tail. I also thought the acting was great. I am no movie critic though… The plot – briefly: A desperate mother flies to an east-African country to purchase a liver for her dying son. But, she soon discovers that the ‘donors’ are impoverished people from the community whose lives are considered ‘worthless’. These individuals are literally ‘killed for their organs’ which can save the lives of those with the potential to make a meaningful contribution to society.
So… It’s just a film! What’s the problem?
Most notably, the way in which organ donation and transplant is portrayed could, in my opinion, be quite damaging. Here’s why…
Organ transplant, as it happens on the ground, comes down to questions of life and death. These seem quite abstract to many of us, and they make for a great movie. But for those who have actually lived the experience, transplant often becomes a quintessential part of their identity. For recipients, there’s the challenge of re-identifying yourself as you move into a new phase of life, with an organ from someone else in your body. For donor families there is a time of grief, tinged with hope and the long search for closure and peace after losing a loved-one. None of this should be taken lightly and you get a sense of the profound ways that transplant affects people by reading this blog, by a lung recipient. So, I think Bypass rather sensationalises and over-simplifies an issue that is much more complex.
Next, Bypass claims to be “inspired by true events”. I imagine that the ‘true event’ being referred to is the infamous Netcare Case. I am absolutely not condoning the actions of anyone involved in the Netcare Case, but I must point out that no-one was ‘killed for their organs’ – it revolved around living ‘donor’ transplant. It would be a great pity if Bypass exacerbates a general misconception and mistrust about organ transplant which is already prevalent in the SA setting. This could ultimately prevent people from consenting to donate organs of a loved one.
Finally, Bypass employs some highly emotive, negatively-connoted terminology. Donors are referred to as “stock” and the procedure of organ extraction is referred to as “harvesting” – a term which is not accepted in the international transplant community.
Sure, I think Bypass has been a success in creating debate, and I realise that this post sounds a lot like the fun-police, these annoying academics… But I’m not sure our transplant system can withstand such a negative portrayal. (Some may say: “Of course it can” – look at how many new sign-ups took place after the Bypass advertising campaign. But a word of caution, you’d be mistaken to think that a new sign-up actually equated to another organ donor, as discussed here).
The views published in this blog are entirely my own (informed) opinions. They are open to debate, discussion and disagreement.
Tagged: Bypass Movie, organ donation, organ transplant, South Africa
I agree 100%.
It is interesting that SA seems to be the fountain of all that is bad in so many movies and TV Series.
I believe that the SA transplant and donor environment has been well cleaned up and it is such a pity that apart from convincing people to consider organ donation, one now has to fight negative issues as well.
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Thanks Willie for your comment. You are quite right that our transplant and donor environment is very well regulated. We also have some extraordinary people working tirelessly to facilitate better transplant services in SA. I think it’s very important that people are given accurate information, without it, we just don’t have a framework conducive to making reasoned, clear decisions. And that, of course, makes the job of people working in transplant much more challenging,,,,
I think you’re missing the point here. If I am not mistaken, the context in which “stock” and “harvest” are used in the film, is at the illegal organ trafficking clinic… Where people are being caught and held prisoner as “stock” for future, paying clients. Also, you are assuming the “real events” they are drawing from is the Netcare case but, illegal organ trafficking is much bigger than Netcare and your assumption is therefore slightly naive. Naturally signing up as a donor doesn’t equal more organs as, families make the final decision and cause of death can impact things too. I think this was a good film which sheds light on a real issue.
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Hi Liesl, thanks so much for your comments. Of course you are quite correct that the film sheds light on the issue of organ trafficking which goes far beyond the Netcare Case (Bypass linked to the Netcare Case here: http://bhekisisa.org/article/2017-04-18-00-organ-trafficking-hoax-sparks-a-massive-spike-in-donors-1/ and here: https://www.thedailyvox.co.za/organ-trafficking-hoax-sparks-a-massive-spike-in-donors-joan-van-dyk/), and that the negative terminology in the film is used in a specific context. However context is a rather fluid thing, and it doesn’t take much of a leap for events in one context (say organ trafficking) to influence perceptions in another context (say, the current SA transplant system). This is where I think there is an element of risk, and where the film may have a negative impact. Regarding donor sign-up – there is a misconception that once you have signed-up, it’s a sure thing. My aim is to point out that this is not the case, for the reasons you mention and many others. 500 words per blog post is quite limiting, so I hope to discuss these other factors next week.
As it happens, at the premiere Q&A, the producer of the film Bypass stated that the ‘true events’ upon which the movie is based are indeed the Netcare Case.