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The monkey business

March 2005 -- Bam Bam, the orangutan who has played "Nurse Precious" on NBC's campy soap "Passions" since March 2003, is set to leave the show with the episode to be broadcast Thursday, March 24. The Truth started a campaign in September 2003 to persuade the show to end this depiction, which included Bam Bam actually doing some private duty "nursing," along with the expected comic hijinks. We argued that however riotously funny this all was, the idea that nursing could be done by a monkey came too close to what much of society has long believed nurses really do, and that such media images exacerbate the nursing crisis. Indeed, nurses have been told by physicians and hospital representatives that monkeys could do their jobs.

We wish we could take credit for the end of Precious, but the show flatly refused to do anything in response to our campaign or one by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. Show creator James E. Reilly told TV Guide in early 2004 that if nurses knew how much money Bam Bam was making, "they'd all be putting on monkey suits," a comment that earned Reilly a special "Let Them Eat Banana Cake" award from the Truth as part of its 2004 Golden Lamp Awards. "Passions" itself had won a Golden Lamp Award the previous year, as one of the ten worst depictions of nursing in 2003. In any case, according to news reports, Bam Bam is leaving because his new owner will be taking him to Florida.

So tune in on Thursday afternoon and wish Bam Bam well. We can say this for him: he never made anyone do anything that threatened the health of his whole species.


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