The New York headquarters of the "Donahue" show and WDVM, the local station that airs "Donahue," were flooded with angry calls yesterday after the rebroadcast of an April 13, 1984, show about the death of 3-year-old Sam Kushnick, who contracted AIDS from blood transfusions he received after his premature birth. The outburst prompted an apology to viewers from Channel 9 and an explanatory statement from the "Donahue" show.
Medical procedures have been developed since the original broadcast to prevent acquired immune deficiency syndrome from being spread through blood transfusions. No mention of this medical breakthrough was aired along with yesterday's "Donahue," although a spokesman for the show said the program was clearly labeled as prerecorded. Callers complained that without mention of the new medical procedures, the program could cause unnecessary alarm among patients who needed transfusions.
Doctors and nurses concerned about the inaccuracy of the information were among the estimated 100 callers who registered their concern with the New York headquarters. WDVM reported it had received approximately 75 calls after the broadcast. In response, the "Donahue" show issued the following statement yesterday:
"Because of the topical nature of the program it was selected to be rerun this morning. The information provided during the program was up to date and accurate at the time of the original broadcast. However, there have been some advances in the diagnosis and treatment of AIDS since that time. There are now tests to screen blood donations to ensure the safety of the blood supply. Nonetheless we feel the importance of the information presented throughout the show was significant."
A spokeswoman for WDVM said yesterday that the station "could have and should have put some additional disclaimers throughout the show."