How to Use Social Media to Aid an Organ Donor Search

Three Parts:Creating a Facebook PresenceTweeting to Aid the SearchBeing Aware of Rules and Regulations

Do you have a friend or loved one who needs a kidney, liver, or heart? Traditionally, people who need a transplant go on a waitlist until doctors find a suitable donor. This can take months or even years. But social media is a new and powerful tool in finding potential donors. You can use media like Facebook and Twitter to raise awareness of your loved one’s plight, connect to hundreds of people, send updates, and help locate a match. Just be aware of the possible legal and ethical issues.

Part 1
Creating a Facebook Presence

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    Open a Facebook account. Facebook is a powerful social media tool for organizing campaigns and has helped people find organ donors in the past. In fact, some doctors are hopeful about its potential to boost the number organ matches dramatically. If you don’t already have an account, consider signing up and building a presence there.[1][2][3]
    • To sign up, go to Facebook’s main page at or search for Facebook on a search engine like Google.
    • Under the heading “Sign Up,” enter your name, email address, password, birthday, and sex. The next steps will guide you through the creation of your personal page. Once finished, you can use this as the basis for your search and add friends, photos, and messages.
    • You can also try creating a non-personal page for your campaign. On the Facebook homepage, click the link that says “Create a Page for a celebrity, band, or business.” Next, click the button that reads “Cause or Community,” input the name of your drive, and hit “get started.”
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    Announce your search. Once you’ve set up a personal or community page and added friends, write a message to tell them that you are searching for an organ donor for a friend or loved one. Try to craft an announcement that gives the essential details and asks for help. Then, post the message or share it with your group of friends.
    • Say something like, “Dear Friends, we want to let you know that X is very sick and needs a kidney. She is looking urgently for a donor with type B+ blood between the ages of 25 and 40. If you know a possible match, please contact us.”
    • You can post such a message as a personal status update. You might also send it as a “personal message” to your entire group of friends for the widest possible readership. Also, ask your friends to share the message with whomever they can.
    • Once you’ve announced the search, keep your friends updated. Post new messages from time to time to tell them how the search is going, if you’re still looking for a donor, or if you’ve found a match.
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    Encourage friends to update their organ donor status. As of 2012, Facebook offers users the option to update “organ donor status” on their personal profile. This was designed as a way to help boost the rate of organ donor registration and, at least at first, led thousands of people to sign up. Your own friends might not be aware of this tool, however. Encourage them to sign up.[4][5]
    • Consider posting a message about this under your personal status. Friends who are already registered to donate organs can update their profiles, but also make sure to include a link to sites where people can sign up for the first time.
    • If you’re in the US, you should direct friends to the “Donate Life America” page and have them click the “Sign Up” button. This will redirect them to the organization’s website, where they can register as a potential donor for organs, eyes, or tissue.
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    Join public groups. Another way you can broaden your social media presence is by joining public organ donation pages and groups on Facebook. There are a number of these community pages, like You can also search Facebook for similar sites in your country or area. Join them to get connected to other people who share the same interests or are potential donors.[6]
    • To look for sites, go to the search option and type a key word like “organ donation.” You can narrow the search only to public pages and community groups by hitting these keywords on the list of options at the top of the page.
    • Sign up for these pages or join open community groups. Follow the pages and post about your own search to raise awareness.

Part 2
Tweeting to Aid the Search

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    Set up a Twitter account. Twitter is another way that you can approach your search for an organ donor. Like Facebook, Twitter is a social media networking site that can connect you to hundreds or even thousands of people. It also allows you to send short messages of up to 140 characters, or “Tweets.” Registered and unregistered people can read these tweets.[7][8]
    • To sign up for Twitter, go to or search for Twitter on an internet search engine. Click on the button at the top of the page that says “Sign Up.” Then, follow the instructions to open an account.
    • Twitter is especially convenient because it can work through your mobile phone. By adding a phone number to your account, you’ll be able to send and receive tweets via SMS text messaging.
    • From a computer, login to your account and go to “Settings” on the drop-down profile icon. Click on the “Mobile” tab, select your country, and then enter your mobile phone number. Click “Continue” and Twitter will send you a verification code to your phone number. Enter the code to activate your phone.
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    Link your Twitter account to Facebook. Twitter is really useful when you pair it with other social media and can help you to spread the word about your organ donor search. If you link it your Facebook profile, you can share Facebook posts on Twitter or share Tweets with your Facebook friends. Then, for example, an update about the search that you send out as a Tweet will automatically appear on your Facebook feed.[9]
    • If you’d like to link your accounts, go to Click “Link to Twitter” by your profile or by the page you want to link and follow the instructions.
    • You can also control the kinds of things that you share on Twitter. You can choose to limit if you’d only like to share status updates on the search, but also choose to include things like photos, links, and info on events.
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    Tweet and find and follow others. You’ll want to get your message out to friends and followers often to run the best and most thorough donor search. Find and follow others on Twitter to build up a network. Follow your Facebook friends if they have accounts and keep in touch using the Tweet function, sending things like news and updates.[10]
    • Learn to use hashtags. When you send out a Tweet, you can add a short label with the prefix #. This allows people to search for Tweets with a common topic. For example, you might add hashtags like “#organdonors” or “#organdonation” to Tweets on your search.
    • The internet group Organize captures all the information it can carrying hashtags about organ donation and puts it into a huge registry, as well. So far, they’ve compiled the names of about 600,000 people who support organ donation and hope that this will boost donor rates.

Part 3
Being Aware of Rules and Regulations

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    Check the law on organ donation. Before you jump head-first into a social media search, you should check to see that finding a donor online is legal and doable in your country. In some places, like Belgium, doctors have refused to transplant organs from online donors because this bypasses the official waitlist. In other places, however, the law is more relaxed.[11]
    • Look into relationship limitations. In some countries like Germany, you can only accept volunteer organ donations from people who are related to you either in the first or second degree or “in a very special way.” In Belgium, you must be in a “sustainable relationship” with the donor.
    • On the other hand, in the US the laws are less strict about transplants between people who aren’t biologically related. This means that a donation from a Facebook friend is theoretically OK.
    • If you aren’t entirely sure that searching on social media is legal, talk to a lawyer before you start your campaign.
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    Beware of illegal organ sales. One of the big problems of looking for organ donors off the official waitlist is that it encourages the black market sale of organs. Know that selling organs for money is against the law in most countries, including the US, where it is prohibited by the National Organ Transplant Act. You could get into big trouble if you accept an organ in exchange for payment.[12][13][14]
    • The ban on organ sales is supposed to make donation more equal. That way, the rich don’t have an unfair advantage in getting access to needed transplants. People who break the US law face fines or even jail time.
    • Be wary of any potential donors who ask for something in return. According to one study, about 3% of Facebook donation pages got offers to sell organs like kidneys, usually from people in Third World countries and especially south Asia.
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    Consider the ethical problems. Legal or illegal, searching for an organ donor off the official waitlist raises some thorny ethical issues. In the end, you might find that you’re OK with searching through social media and don’t have any qualms. But you should at least give the issues some careful thought.[15][16]
    • Is it fair for you to bypass the waitlist, for example? Some people wait patiently for years to get an organ transplant and, in some countries, the wait lists try to prioritize those who have the greatest need.
    • Consider also that searching for organs via social media privileges those who are able to present their story better or who are just more photogenic and media savvy. Are you OK with this, too?
    • What about tech privilege? Many people who need organ transplants have limited or no access to social media. Is it fair for them to be put at a disadvantage in finding a donor?

Article Info

Categories: Blood and Organ Donation