Status Update: Organ Donor

Facebook uses its massive network to boost organ donations

Early this month on Facebook, among all the vacation pictures and details of daily life, people started to add a much more important kind of “status update” — declaring themselves organ donors on the social network.

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Within a day after Facebook added a feature that allows people to declare themselves organ donors, more than 100,000 of the social network’s users had done so, according to ABC News. Facebook connects users directly to online donor registries, which saw as much as 23 times their normal commitments in the days after Facebook’s announcement, according to Perhaps more important, traffic was still high a week later.

This is surely good news for the more than 114,000 people in the United States waiting for an organ transplant. Sadly, around 18 people die each day while waiting for an organ because of a national and international shortage of donor organs.

“Only about one-fourth of patients [on the waiting list] get a transplant every year,” said John Fung, MD, PhD, Director of Cleveland Clinic’s Transplant Center and Chair of the Digestive Disease Institute.

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The push for more organ donors is especially important for the care of patients at an institution such as Cleveland Clinic, which performs a wide variety of transplants through six different programs and accepts the most challenging cases, from heart transplants to complicated double-organ transplants. More than 400 organ transplants were performed at Cleveland Clinic in 2011.

Greater national awareness could be good news for the 90,000-plus kidney-disease patients trying to exit the painful cycle of dialysis or liver patients waiting for a suitable donor. Cleveland Clinic is trying to tackle the shortage on a number of fronts — by encouraging more living donors for liver transplants, for example.

“The importance of connecting donors and recipients is literally life or death,” Dr. Fung said. “Having the conversation about organ donation can be a few minutes that save another life.”

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