Healthcare Technology Featured Article

May 04, 2011

Healthcare Technology and News: Facebook Now Helping to Find Organs for Donation

Need a kidney? Try Facebook. All joking aside, Facebook is becoming a fast new way of finding an organ, and donating one.

At this moment, more than 100,000 people in the U.S. are waiting for an organ. Four thousand more people are added to the national waiting list each day, according to WebMD. Each of these people is in desperate need of a kidney, liver, heart, or other organ. More than 6,500 people a year – about 18 a day – die before that organ ever becomes available.

Half a billion people use Facebook to connect with friends, lovers and colleagues. And now, it's saving lives by linking potential organ donors with patients who need them, according to CBS News. The official organ donor list – regulated and funded by the federal government – has a typical wait time of three-to-five years, and only draws organs from the deceased. Transplants from living donors are far more successful but there is currently no registry for them. 

People are writing public messages, changing their statuses, and  organizing groups in effort to advertise awareness, as well as advertise their dire need for help.  Furthermore, people are responding!  People have successfully organized kidney donor transplants through their Facebook pages (there are even cases in which the recipient found a willing donor within a few minutes, which proves to be way quicker than a waiting list). 

 Finding a living donor that matches your criteria essentially is finding a way to cut the line.  About 10-12 percent of people on a waiting list for kidney transplants die.  The number of people who are willing to donate their organs has been decreasing, while the need for organ donors has been increasing.  Facebook has communication capabilities that can provide great changes to this unfortunate situation, ultimately paving the way to saving lives. 

Other social networking websites which have been used are Twitter, blogs, even Craigslist.  Even Apple Inc has gotten involved in the new trend. Inspired by Apple’s CEO Steve Jobs’ liver transplant, a new iPhone application for organ donation has been created, DonateLives, which is essentially a shortcut to Web pages for organ donation registration. 

Deborah DiSesa Hirsch is an award-winning health and technology writer who has worked for newspapers, magazines and IBM in her 20-year career. To read more of her articles, please visit her columnist page.

Edited by Jennifer Russell

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