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Social Media And Organ Donation: Using Online Sites To Find Donors


When online entrepreneur Amit Gupta found out he had acute leukemia last month he quickly turned to social media. But it's not why you'd think.

Yes he started a Twitter account and Tumblr site as a way to keep his family and friends updated on his health. But he also wanted to reach out to a worldwide audience who could help him find a matching bone marrow donor -- something needed to treat the disease.

While he hasn't founded such a person yet -- and only has about six weeks left to find one -- the 32-year-old remains hopeful. “I'm so grateful,” he told the Toronto Star, from his parents' home in Connecticut. “I was glad for the attention but I didn't think it would last. I don't know what to say.”

In Canada, according to The Canadian Association of Transplantation (CAT), more than 4,000 people are currently on an organ recipient wait list. Last year, 1,803 transplants were performed and 195 Canadians died while waiting on the list.

Advocates have been urging for an organ donation system overhaul for years -- including the idea of creating a presumed consent organ donation program (where people would have to explicitly opt-out of the program instead of opting in).

But because the idea remains controversial, many like Gupta -- who are waiting for a life-saving transplant -- have taken up the task of finding an organ donor themselves.

There's Roxy Kurze who updated her Facebook status last April in honour of her husband Jeff: "Wishing a kidney would fall out of the sky so my husband can stop suffering... If anyone knows of a live donor with type O blood, PLEASE let me know." Kurze received a message from Ricky Cisco, a Facebook friend she'd met only once through work. Turned out Cisco had a kidney he was willing to donate to Kurze's husband even though the pair had never met.

"I always wanted to be a hero, but I’m not very strong. I can’t lift anything, I can’t save people in traditional ways. I do have an extra kidney," Cisco told The Daily Mail.

Vancouver mother Jacqueline Nemeth is another example. According to the Vancouver Sun, she's currently looking for a kidney donor for the second time. Her sister, who is being tested to see if she's a suitable match, created a website and Facebook page to try and find a donor in case the matching doesn't work out.

Individuals in need of a transplant aren't the only ones hoping to recruit donors via social media. Last year, The Hyves Dutch Transplantation Foundation turned to their social networking site Hyves, similar to Facebook and Myspace, to help recruit some 25,000 new organ donors through an online social media campaign. So we want to know...

POLL: What do you think?

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