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Facebook impact on organ donors dramatic

Kathleen Blanchard's picture
Social media impact on organ donors greater than any previous program.

Last year Facebook added a tool that allowed people to post their organ donor status. Johns Hopkins researchers analyzed the impact, finding a dramatic increase in the number of organ donors in a single day.

The finding shows social media that could be a valuable tool for patients waiting for organ donation.

The researchers for the study said the effect was greater than any they had seen from any previous program designed to encourage people to become organ donors.

Study leader Andrew M. Cameron, M.D., Ph.D., an associate professor of surgery at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine said in a press release that not only was the short-term effect ‘dramatic’, but “...at the end of two weeks, the number of new organ donors was still climbing at twice the normal rate.”

Facebook makes it easy for people to display their organ donor status providing links to state motor vehicle websites to make it ‘official’

Cameron said the social media site could be a way to change the status of organ donations that are in short supply and highlighted by a recently widely publicized story of 10-year old Sarah Murnaghan who had been awaiting a lung transplant and finally received the organ from an adult donor.

Why Facebook added organ donor status

The social media site says an average of 18 people will die daily as the result of the need for a liver, heart or kidney transplant.

The social add on allows people to share their thoughts about why they decided to help others by donating their tissue, eyes or other organs of the body. The more people that talk about it, the more lives will be saved. Patients who receive eye and tissue transplants will have improved quality of life.

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Why donate?

According to organdonor.gov there are currently 118,602 people in the U.S. waiting for a transplant. One organ donor can save 8 lives.

Anyone can sign up for organ, eye or tissue donation, regardless of your age or medical condition. It also costs nothing. Most, though not all, religions support donating your organs.

If you are not a Facebook user, you can register in your state. Some states allow you to check yes when you register for your driver's license.

Last year organ donor signups more than doubled to 13,012 people on May 1, 2012 as the result of the social media add-on. In a typical day, 616 people register.

“To me, it was a promissory note on the power of social media,” said Cameron, surgical director of liver transplant at Johns Hopkins, who adds there is still a lot of work left to solve the organ donor crisis.

For the study, researchers tracked the impact on donor sign-ups by studying user’s profile changes, state donor registration patterns and Department of Motor Vehicles records from May 1, 2012 through May 28, 2012 - something they say is valuable and “immediately measureable.”

Cameron believes social media makes it easier for people to sign up who otherwise have good intentions but never get around to registering.

This week organ donation has been extended to 17 other countries, Cameron explained.

Experts believe social media has the ability to make an impact on boosting the number of organ donors, but it will be years before results are seen. Facebook boosted organ donor status more than any other program to date.