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Social Media Boosts Organ Donor Registration

Researchers see a 21-fold increase in organ donors in a single day.

Dr. Andrew Cameron Dr. Andrew Cameron
Over the last 20 years, the number of organ donors in the United States has remained relatively static, while the number of people waiting for a transplant has increased 10-fold.

Thousands of patients will pass away this year waiting for kidneys, livers and other organs, while an estimated 5,000 to 10,000 people die each year whose organs would be suitable for transplant but have not consented to be donors. 

With these troubling stats in mind, Dr. Andrew Cameron, surgical director of liver transplantation at the Johns Hopkins Comprehensive Translant Center, spoke with fellow Harvard University graduate and current Facebook chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg at a class reunion about how to change the trend -- and the results have everyone talking.

A Facebook change in May 2012 allowed users to share their organ donor status with friends and easily find links to make their status official on state department of motor vehicle website, resulting in a significant boost in registered donors in a single day. 

“The short-term response was incredibly dramatic, unlike anything we had ever seen before in campaigns to increase the organ donation rate. And at the end of two weeks, the number of new organ donors was still climbing at twice the normal rate,” said Dr. Cameron.  

“If we can harness that excitement in the long term, then we can really start to move the needle on the big picture. The need for donor organs vastly outpaces the available supply and this could be a way to change that equation.”

How You Can Make a Difference

If you haven't already, consider registering as an organ donor through your local DMV website -- and let your friends know about your decision on Facebook. While you're there, consider swinging by the Johns Hopkins Medicine page and clicking the 'Like' button. 

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