Susan Boyle fairy tale sours

LONDON - Now that it's over, it's fair to ask: Was 'Britain's Got Talent' worth it?

Susan Boyle, the most famous contestant, is hospitalized at the Priory Clinic in London with nervous exhaustion. Three children broke down on camera, leaving the stage in tears. Others were mocked by the judges and hooted by the fans. All in the name of reality TV.

Is it really a surprise that Boyle, an amateur singer with learning disabilities who lives alone with her cat, would have trouble competing live on national TV? Or that 10-year-old Hollie Steel would break down from the pressure? Or that 10-year-old Natalie Okri and 11-year-old Aidan Davis would burst into tears after being told they didn't make the cut?

Chris Thompson, medical director of the 14 Priory hospitals, said reality TV show producers have a responsibility to fully inform participants that instant fame can bring instant scrutiny and unbearable pressure.

Other mental health professionals had warned late last week that the fragile Boyle, who suffered oxygen deprivation at birth, seemed ill-equipped to handle the pressure.

Thompson echoed their concerns. 'Anybody asked to sing live without professional training will face immense pressures, then follow that up with a barrage of public comments about her looks, talent and behavior from all over the world and it's incredibly intrusive,' he told The Associated Press on Monday.

Thompson said it's tempting for reality TV producers to exploit people with mental health problems to boost their ratings and advertising revenues without fully understanding the risks this poses for the people involved.

'It is an ethical problem for producers,' he said. 'They need professional advice, to understand what it means if that person stays on the show.'

Although he would not comment on Boyle's treatment specifically, he said patients hospitalized under similar circumstances would be evaluated by a team led by a psychiatrist, then possibly receive antidepressant or sleeping medication, and be advised to rest until they were well enough to participate in group psychotherapy sessions.