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07/29/2010

Need An Organ? Find Your Donor Via Facebook!

Apparently Facebook isn’t just for playing MafiaWars anymore. It’s also for finding living unrelated donors to give you their organs. Seriously.

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The six degrees of separation that we all experience via Facebook makes those who have long been waiting on organ transplant lists feel as though the wait can end if they just reach out via their network…all with a simple status message.

According to TopNews.com, one 53-year-old woman did precisely this. After being on dialysis for 8 years, the desperately posted a message on her Facebook page and had 200 responses within a day. From those responses she found a donor and received her transplant.

With 84,000 people waiting for a kidney transplants each year, certainly many more will be tempted to use social networking sites to find an organ, but depending upon the closeness of the relationship and the nature of it, aren’t these precisely the kind of directed donations of organs that we are worried about, regardless of whether they come from Facebook or not?

Sure family members choose to give kidneys or portions of livers to family members all the time, but is there something different about soliciting organs via Facebook? As long as no money changes hands, many would say no–it’s simply a way of expanding your options. And perhaps it is finally a way to make use out of having 250 or 850 “friends” whom one never really “talks” to. When one is in need, perhaps one of these “friends” will come through indeed.

Frankly, I am ambivalent about Facebook organ procurement. In a way, it is no different than placing a classified ad or running a billboard sign or any other method of advertising or solicitation, except that it is likely to be much more effective because one is reaching out to one’s “network” of “friends”. And if this reduces the number of people waiting on transplant lists even the smallest fractions, I’d be hard pressed to say it is a bad thing.

Summer Johnson, PhD

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