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Kidney Transplant Candidates Take to Facebook to Find Donors

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A couple of weeks ago I blogged about actress Sarah Hyland and her recent kidney transplant. Sarah was fortunate enough to have a family member who was both a match and willing to donate, but many kidney transplant patients are not so lucky. When other options dry up and the waiting list is too long, many kidney patients are now turning to social networks for help finding donors.

The runaway success of Facebook, Twitter, Pintrest and other sites has allowed patients and their families to reach a nearly unlimited audience. A recent study by researchers at Loyola University Medical Center started to delve into the frequency and success rates of public appeals via web pages and social media sites. Although the researchers reported a great deal of variety in the content of the solicitations, they did note some apparent trends. According to the study, the vast majority of donor appeals fail to mention the risks or costs associated with the surgery, and white patients seem to be more likely to have people agree to be tested for compatibility. The investigation also raised the specter of offers of selling organs – a practice that has been banned in the United States.

I have said this before, but it bears repeating: there are too many patients and not enough donors. Social media is emerging as a potential method of connecting people to life-saving volunteers, but its success remains unpredictable at this point.