Australian reality TV show Big Brother has been accused of ‘ethical irresponsibility’ for not telling one of the contestants in the house that her father has died.
However Tim Stanton, the partner of 24 year-old Emma CornellI, says it was “literally the dying wish” of father that she not be told of his death while she was still in the house.
Raymond Cornell died last Wednesday in an Adelaide hospice, aged 53. He was buried on Monday.
Big Brother and Endemol Southern Star spokespeople offered a “no comment” today, saying they would respect the wishes of the grieving Cornell family and not notify Emma of her father’s death.
But World Vision chief Tim Costello said Big Brother’s decision “is patent ethical irresponsibility”.
“She’s only got one father and she’ll suffer guilt and possibly resentment for the rest off her life,” he said.
Psychologist Chris Hall, director of the Australian Centre for
Grief and Bereavement, also weighed into the debate, saying Emma should be told of her father’s death and given the opportunity to choose her own way of dealing with it.
“I’ve worked with lots of bereaved people, and I’ve never had somebody complain that they’ve been told too much,” Mr Hall told
“But I have had people complain to me that they’ve been lied to, or that they’ve been deceived.”
It is believed Emma, 24, from Sydney, may have been involved in discussions with her father about what to do if he died while she was still in the Big Brother house.
But Mr Stanton insists it was her father’s last request.
“If a man’s telling you this while he’s dying, you’re going to respect his wishes.”
Mr Costello was sceptical about how Big Brother would handle the situation when Emma is eventually evicted from the house.
“Will they break the news on air, for ratings?” he asked.
While Big Brother producers do often address controversial issues as part of the show, it is understood they won’t mention the death to Emma until she leaves the house.
That won’t be for at least a fortnight, after she escaped nomination for eviction this week.
Reports say Emma, who is a personal trainer, had been estranged from her father until recently.
Mr Stanton said Mr Cornell had watched every Big Brother episode and felt as though he was “getting to know his daughter”.