Reality TV, a category screaming out for a lawsuit

I don’t watch reality TV shows but am subject to the repulsive TV ads which I do see with my mouth hanging open until I’m able to close it and mutter, “Why on earth would anybody want to spend TV time with these horrible people?”

And, “Why do these horrible people think anybody would want to spend TV time with them?”

Apparently, reality TV producers have lost, along with their protagonists, any sense of privacy for the vast majority of us who are not narcissistic enough to believe we’re “worthy” to star on a reality TV show. I mean, guys, you don’t get to put us on TV if we don’t consent to be there.

But they did. Here’s what one of the Dr. Oz shows did to one family, engendering a series of complaints to various agencies and a lawsuit for damages that has so far been denied: Dying in the E.R., and on TV Without His Family’s Consent – This compelling story begins:

Anita Chanko could not sleep. At 4 a.m., on an August night in 2012, she settled onto the couch in her Yorkville living room with her dog, Daisy, and her parrot, Elliott, and flipped on the DVR. On came the prior night’s episode of “NY Med,” the popular real-life medical series set at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital, starring Dr. Mehmet Oz. Mrs. Chanko, 75, was a fan of the show and others like it.

“It starts off, there’s a woman with stomach cancer and her family, and then there’s somebody with a problem with their baby, I think it was a heart,” she remembered. “And then I see the doctor that treated my husband.”

Mark Chanko, her husband, died 16 months earlier, in April 2011, after being struck by a sanitation truck while crossing a street near his home. The doctors and nurses at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center tried in vain to save his life.

On the TV screen, she saw a chief surgery resident, Sebastian Schubl, responding to an emergency in which a man is hit by a vehicle. “And then I see, even with the blurred picture, you could tell it was him,” she said. “You could hear his speech pattern. I hear my husband say, ‘Does my wife know I’m here?’ ”


Mark Chanko Credit Chanko family

There was no doubt in her mind: The blurred-out man moaning in pain was her husband of almost 46 years, the Korean War veteran she met in a support group for parents without partners.

“I hear them saying his blood pressure is falling. I hear them getting out the paddles and then I hear them saying, ‘O.K., are you ready to pronounce him?’ ”

She clenched her fists so tightly that “the palms of my hands almost looked like stigmata” and her mouth got so dry that her tongue stuck to the roof “as if I had just eaten a whole jar of peanut butter.”

“I saw my husband die before my eyes.”

No one in the Chanko family had given “NY Med” permission to film Mr. Chanko’s treatment at the hospital or to broadcast the moments leading up to his death.


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