Facebook is revolutionizing the search of an organ donor, but is it right?

This week The New Yorker published a fascinating article called, "to donate his kidney, please click here".  More and more people are turning to Facebook to find donor organs.  And while many have found tremendous success using this strategy, the article highlights the serious ethical concerns that are now facing physicians and the communities of public health in the light of this trend.

Concerns about the disparities

The defenders

While the data show that Facebook is the most popular social network among online adults, we don't know how social media skills promotion translated through the demographic variables.  "In the article for The New Yorker, Dan O'Connor of the University Johns Hopkins asks" "whenever you are using platforms like Facebook, the question is, what kind of person, what demographic profile has the time, energy, and communication skills to make this work?" [bold added]


He said Dr. Michael Shapiro (who decides not to perform transplants of donor-recipient kidney in couples who met through online advertising), "is not difficult to imagine that if you're young and attractive and appealing, is easier than people to donate to you than if you're ugly or short or have a hunchback. "And that is not the way we want this system work."[bold added]

While there is limited research on donor and recipient match Facebook, Loyola University research provides support for the concerns of Dr. Shapiro.  After examining the Facebook pages searching for kidney donation, the researchers found that certain types of pages (i.e. white patients and those with more posts) were more likely to have people forward and do the test to be a potential donor.

Leveling the playing field

As with any health or access gap, public health needs to innovate solutions to bridge the gap.  The New Yorker article discusses Dr. Andrew Cameron (a transplant at Johns Hopkins surgeon) who is working on a possible solution.  You are developing an application for smart phone that can level the playing field for patients and families for social communication and advocacy tools resources are less intuitive and accessible.  The application would provide a "template" for those who need their organs to tell his story and would provide a system for users who connect directly with transplant centers, and social media.

What do you think?

Do donor matching Facebook provides an advantage to certain demographic groups? what can we do to level the playing field for patients/families with (1) limited access to the means of social communication and advocacy skills? (2) stories that can be "less attractive" for the public? are surprised that some surgeons (for example, the Dr. Michael Shapiro profiled in The New Yorker) Decides to not work in pairs who meet through online advertising?
Bonus reading: This is not the first time that Facebook has been part of the dialogue of organ donation.  Last may, I wrote about the tool "share life" of Facebook, allowing users to share their status of donation of organs in their chronology.  Since then, research has shown that the tool is effective to increase the number of donors.

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