Thursday, January 18, 2007

Dying for entertainment?

There's a local story here that's captured my attention.

Last week some time, a local radio station sponsored a contest called "Hold Your Wee for a Wii" to win a Playstation Wii. The idea behind it was for several people to drink as much water as possible without having to go to the restroom. Most of you have probably already heard about it. A 28-year-old woman, Jennifer Strange, drank water until she died from water intoxication.



There are probably many who would say that she made her choices and suffered the consequences. She's an adult.

Truly though, I have to wonder if she really knew the possible consequences of this. Although there was a similar case in Chico last year, most people don't know the symptoms of water intoxication. They don't know we can actually overdose on it. I didn't know it .. and I'm a reasonably well-read person. It's just nothing that ever caught my attention.

In this reality TV-saturated environment, I believe it is possible the participants in this contest didn't know the possible outcome. The morning DJs who sponsored the contest gave blow-by-blow progress reports during which they egged the contestants on. When a caller phoned in to remind them that people can die from this kind of thing, one of the DJs quipped that it was alright. The contestants all had to sign release forms.

I believe this kind of stuff has gone too far. When does it cross the line? And more than that, when did it become acceptable to put people in harm's way for sport, just to provide entertainment for bored commuters listening to a morning shock-jock radio show? Is it worth a life to get ratings? Apparently KDND believes so.

The Sacramento Co. Sheriff's Department claims that a criminal investigation will occur. Yet they warn that unlikely there will be enough evidence to get past the District Attorney's office for prosecution. If it is determined that a crime took place, the waivers signed by the contestants won't mean a thing.

Personally, I believe the radio station was criminally compliant. If they didn't know the possible outcome, they should have researched it. They should have checked with their lawyers. They should have done something. At the very minimum, they are, in my opinion, guilty of criminally negligent homicide or manslaughter.

A civil suit has been filed against the radio station by Jennifer Strange's husband.

I believe the community needs to speak up about this as well. At some point, we need to say this kind of activity is not acceptable and there will be consequences for those radio or television stations that sponsor it. It's easy to blow this off, saying that adults can make their own choices about what activities to pursue but it is a community issue as well. Our standards as a community are determined by many factors that go beyond individual choice.




meno said...

Hold your wee for a wii?

I'm sorry, that's just horrid. I think it's common enough knowledge that too much water can kill you that the radio station should be liable.

But really, why would anyone agree to do this, for a $200 toy?

Bob said...

I too think the radio station is, at the least, criminally negligent. Sponsoring a contest that could lead to harming an individual without knowing the potential harm is negligent - and if someone at the radio station knew, then it is manslaughter.

I suspect that they didn't know about water intoxication - I didn't (but my wife did!). They should have looked into it.

Some people will do almost anything for a freebee. Especially one that was virtually impossible to get at Christmas.

Peg said...

I agree that the radio station should be held liable. They have a team of lawyers that are supposed to research this stuff and advise them.

Pam said...

They were criminally negligent and morally negligent. This never should have happened.

Not to mention the fact that a bunch of adults drinking so much water that they are doing the potty dance, in a public forum, just to win something, makes me wonder what the hell is going on out there.

MsLittlePea said...

I agree. I must have been the only one in the US who hadn't heard about it until last night-I was watching CNN. I couldn't believe it! Very irresponsible of the radio station. The winner of the contest said that 19 people showed up for this contest. Is this really entertainment?

Julie Pippert said...

Holy...err (not cow, based on last post) mackerel.

I hadn't heard about this.

I would not have done this, but I would have dismissed it as silly, not dangerous. I had no idea.

However, what with a waiver, dismissing the warnings by mentioning the waiver, and egging on...I believe they are criminally negligent.

How horrible. How tragic.

QT said...

This was heavily debated on a radio show here, and apparently the "possible death" is included in the release that was signed. The radio station here said they have to put that on all contest release forms because even if they are not doing anything to endanger contestants, it covers accidental death, like stagelights falling on someone's head.

I am not trying to be cold, but if the person who won drank more water and didn't die, which is the case, I don't know where the law will come down on this. She was an adult, exercising free will. We can't protect everyone from themselves.

I think the husband filing a wrongful death claim as a civil suit stands a chance. Criminal charges I think are unwarranted and probably won't happen.

I would like to see someone in upper management fired, thats for sure. They see all of these stunts and approve them, yet only the on-air talent gets fired.

Lillithmother said...

That's consumerism for you...stupidity at it's best. And you know what...she died for nothing, because another stupid contest will come along and something similar will happen...and no one will take the blame.

Laurie said...

That is very sad. The radio station really should have known better. I hope the family wins the lawsuit.

Ginnie said...

This type of thing just leaves me shaking my head...what type of people are there that produce these things and who are the people who participate? It's such a collosal waste...

Karen Rani said...

Last summer, a lady died here in a marshmallow-eating contest. (The goal was to put as many marshmallows in your mouth as possible, and then try to sing or talk or something.) A marshmallow lodged in her throat and she was embarrassed, so she wandered away and suffocated in a chair, in the middle of the fair, with tons of people walking by, and no one noticed until it was too late. She left a family behind too.

I thought water intoxication was common knowledge, but I guess not. I do think the radio station should be held responsible as well.

Khao said...

You probably won't like this answer but it's just Darwin in action.

heartinsanfrancisco said...

Depraved indifference. I didn't know about water intoxication, either. It just had never come up before.

The whole thing is appalling. And I was really offended by the radio station guy stating that it was ok because the contestants signed waivers.

I've always heard that in overpopulated countries, life has no value. Well, look who's talking. Here in this country, life seems to be diminishing in value every day. Such stunts should be illegal, at the very least.

UU Soul said...

I read about that local story too. So sad. I read that she said she did it for her kids. I think that the radio station should be liable. They should have some kind of preventive measures in place when it is a known risk. And personally, I have no interest in those kinds of stunts.

The Dude said...

Amen! I think that the obsession with "reality TV" and getting your cheap, pathetic 15 minutes is going too far...
there needs to be some change and fast.
... but i will admit that the concept of hold your wee for a wii is funny as hell and attention grabbing... but its a cheap attention grabber and THAT makes it wrong.

Bob said...

my wife tells me that the winner suffered some ill effects, but recovered. She also said that 10 people were fired - the staff of the morning show that ran the contest. She mentioned that someone called in DURING the contest to warn them about water intoxication and that is when the radio guy said OVER THE AIR that it didn't matter, the contestants had signed a waiver.

That's depraved indifference and manslaughter to me. the radio station will probably settle out of court too. I doubt there will be any jail time for anyone.

Melissa said...

Very unfortunate that this caused a death. But I believe it is the responsibility of the individual participant, not the radio station. She chose to do it, to do a crazy task for a $100 piece of junk.

I do NOT like the culture of litigation that has arisen in this country. Pathetic.

How about people learn to take responsibility for their own actions, and realize that actions have consequences for a change, rather than blaming it on everyone else. Duh!

jen said...

whoa. that is really, well..strange.

i don't know how i feel about this. it's hard to say who made the bad decision here.

Gobody said...

This kind of entertainment exist because there are people who follow them and participate in them. People should try to get a life! The radio station should also be hold responsible so something like this won't happen again.