More Families Seek Kidney Donations on Facebook

Researchers unsure if social media is a safe, effective route to finding donors

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WEDNESDAY, May 30 (HealthDay News) -- More patients and families are using Facebook to seek kidney donations, but it's not clear if doing do improves the chances of obtaining a donor organ, a new study finds.

Researchers from Loyola University Medical Center in Maywood, Ill., examined 91 Facebook pages that were seeking kidney donations for patients aged 2 to 69 and found that 12 percent of the pages reported receiving a kidney transplant and 30 percent reported that potential donors had come forward to be tested for compatibility.

One page reported that more than 600 people had been tested as potential donors for a child, according to the study recently presented at a meeting of the National Kidney Foundation.

On kidney solicitation pages where identities could be determined, the researchers found that 37 percent of the pages were created by patients, 31 percent by patient's children, and 32 percent by other family members or friends of patients.

There was wide variation in the amount of personal information revealed on the pages. Some pages simply asked people to donate, without providing any other information. Other patients offered extensive details about patients who needed kidneys, including medical history, family photos and emotional stories about hospital stays, emergency room visits, financial problems and the difficulties of living on dialysis.

White patients and those with more than 50 posts by other people were most likely to succeed in having people agree to be tested to determine if they were compatible to donate a kidney, said kidney specialist Dr. Alexander Chang, a nephrology fellow at Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine, and colleagues.

They noted a number of ethical concerns. Three percent of the pages received offers to sell kidneys, mostly from people in Third World countries. Would-be donors typically asked for $30,000 to $40,000. Selling organs is illegal.

Only 5 percent of the pages seeking donations mentioned the risks of kidney donations, and only 11 percent mentioned the associated costs.

"Use of social media could be an effective way to solicit kidney donation, but more study is needed to determine how to do this safely and with enough knowledge to make informed decisions," Chang said in a Loyola news release.

More information

The National Kidney Foundation has more about kidney transplantation.

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