The suicide of a doctor who treated a 25-year-old reality-show contestant who died while competing in Koh-Lanta, the French adaptation of the hit CBS series Survivor, has added another bizarre layer to an all-too-real controversy.
Physician Thierry Costa, 38, died by suicide on Monday in Cambodia, according to a statement by the show's production company, Adventure Line Productions (ALP).
Costa's death came 10 days after Gerald Babin died of cardiac arrest on the first day of shooting for the show's 2013 season. Babin complained of pain in his arms after swimming in a relay and competing in a tug-of-war on the beach. He was transported to hospital, where he reportedly died of a heart attack.
Costa, the staff doctor on the show for four seasons, treated Babin on location before he was transported to hospital. In a statement written in French, ALP praised his professionalism and concern for the show's crew and contestants.
Since Babin's death, French media outlets have questioned the production company's treatment of Babin, citing unnamed sources who said producers delayed the doctor's response time and saying Babin was interviewed on camera despite appearing ill.
"In the past few days my name has been tarnished in the media. … I am certain that I treated Gerald in a respectable manner, as a patient and not as a contestant," Costa reportedly wrote in a suicide note, which was shown on television news reports.
Scanned images of the letter, apparently handwritten on hotel stationery, were posted online on Monday by Agence France-Presse.
After Babin's death, the 2013 season of the show was cancelled and the contestants were flown to Paris. Koh-Lanta, produced by Zodiak Media subsidiary ALP, began airing in 2001 and has consistently won its time slot on channel TF1, drawing millions of viewers. The 16th season was expected to air next fall.
Meanwhile, North American fans of reality television got their own sad dose of reality: Shain Gandee, perhaps the most reckless of a wild cast of young misfits on MTV's Buckwild, was among three people found dead in Sissonville, W.Va., on Monday. Local news reports said the young reality star was discovered in a vehicle with his uncle and another unnamed person. Gandee was 21.