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Living Organ Donations and Social Media

Articles about improving organ donation registration rates
by targeted social media campaigns have indicated that such efforts can
successfully increase the numbers of individuals who elect to become organ
(Pena, 2014) (Cameron AM,
While it is acknowledged that social medial is a useful medium for generating
widespread recognition of the need for organ donation, concerns about whether
or not donor registration actually increases donation rates is left unknown.
Additional concerns about such registrations meet the standards for informed
consent. These are productive conversations, and social media holds tremendous
potential for conveying information and generating levels of interest in topics
at a ‘viral’ level.

Discussions up to this point seem to focus on donation after
death, or in the context of imminent death. What has not been robustly
discussed is the role of social media in the role of live organ donation. How
should transplant programs view the relationship of acquaintances that begin on
social media in the context of seeking information or support related to organ
donation? Decisions to donate a solid organ, such as a kidney, ought not to be
undertaken lightly, and perhaps the screening process will weed out donors with
ambivalent intent or poor understanding of what they have offered a recipient.
Given that concerns about informed consent have been noted in prior studies, it
seems prudent to exercise added caution when approving donation transactions
initiated via social media outlets.

Questions about the altruism of donors who met a recipient
online are inevitable, but is it fair to levy judgment on donors and recipients
who use social media for such purposes? 
Not many years ago, online dating raised eyebrows of some who feared
deception and inauthenticity of this mechanism in bringing forth a lasting
relationship. The clear difference between organ donation and dating is that
presumably both parties engaged in online matchmaking are seeking to gain the
same thing – a romantic relationship, whereas there is an imbalance in donor
–recipient relationships. The donor agrees to voluntarily give an organ bearing
physical risk while the recipient receives a life prolonging vital organ. But
this is true regardless of how the donor and recipient know each other, so what
is it about social media that raises added concern in this context? How well do
donors and recipients need to know each other? It seems more needs to be
understood about human relationships in the social media age as we consider
live organ donation in this context.

Cameron AM, M. A. (2013). Social Media and Organ Donor
Registration: The Facebook Effect. Americal Journal of Transplantation, 13,

Pena, A. (2014). The
Side-Effects of the ‘Facebook Effect’: Challenging Facebook’s ‘Organ Donor’
Application. The Journal of Clinical Ethics, 25(1), 65-7.

The Alden March Bioethics Institute offers a Master of Science in Bioethics, a Doctorate of Professional Studies in Bioethics, and Graduate Certificates in Clinical Ethics and Clinical Ethics Consultation. For more information on AMBI’s online graduate programs, please visit our website.

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