Health

Would You Donate Your Liver or Kidneys Via Facebook?

Social media powerhouse used to boost organ donation rates

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Between the passive aggressive status updates and the play-by-play on your cousin's newborn's latest poop, it's safe to say that Facebook is the official landing page for TMI. With a single click, you can see the exact moment your barista got those hipster glasses. But what if your newsfeed informed you that your neighbor just registered to be an organ donor? And in lieu of another cat video, there's a link to your state's official donor registry.

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A new report published in the American Journal of Transplantation found that social media may be the answer to the organ donor shortage in the United States. Doctors at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine collaborated with Facebook to test drive a social media initiative intended to motivate the public to become organ donors. They altered Facebooks timeline platform, allowing users to change their profile status to indicate "organ donor." After doing so, they were provided with a link to the official state donor registry, and a message was sent to friends informing them of the new status.

The results? Facebook's infamous FOMO powers can actually be wielded for good. Researchers found a notable spike in donor registration in all states for the weeks following Facebook's organ donor initiative. On the first day alone, there were 13,054 new online registrations, a staggering number compared to the average baseline of 616 registrations.

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Organ donor registries are critical public health tools. Today, there are more than 118,000 people on waiting lists for livers, kidneys, and other vital organs, and thousands of these patients will die due to the shortage of organ donors. Yet, every year, 5,000 to 10,000 people whose organs could be used in transplants die without donating. It's amazing to think our rabid Facebook addiction could help spread the word about this public health crisis. But we also wonder if these follow-the-leader registrations actually result in more organ donations in the long run, or if people only sign up for the status appeal.

Tell us what you think: Are you an organ donor? Would you click to sign over your kidneys?

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