Ethical regulations regarding the use of social media for public and patient communication about organ transplantation and living donation are reported in the American Journal of Transplantation.1

The various social media communities around living donations have grown without either ethical or legal oversight, even though transplantation is one of the most complexly regulated health care areas. Macey Henderson, JD, PhD, from the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, and colleagues created the framework for transplant stakeholders to ethically navigate organ donation through social media.

Because of rapid social media and news coverage about organ donation, it is becoming increasingly difficult to maintain recipient and donor privacy. Transplant candidates and potential living donors should be advised not to post personal phone numbers, personal email addresses, residential addresses, family information, or other sensitive information on social media.

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The recommendations also address the increased concerns about the autonomy and quality of care for transplant candidates and potential donors. The authors provide suggestions for different audiences: transplant hospitals, transplant candidates, living donors, and transplant professional societies. They address privacy and confidentiality, truthfulness and veracity, informed consent, education, undue influence, coercion, micro allocation, and equity issues.

Such an ethical framework is intended to address the challenges brought about by social media, with their lower barrier to entry,2,3 greater power to disseminate a message, and blurring of the usual definitions of community and relationships.

The autuors add that additional educational interventions should be developed to improve how transplant candidates develop social media profiles. Additional research should explore the impact of frequent social media use on the mental health of living donors, transplant candidates, and recipients.

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  1. Henderson ML, Clayville KA, Fisher JS et al. Social media and organ donation: ethically navigating the next frontier [published online July 25, 2017]. Am J Transplant. doi: 10.1111/ajt.14444
  2. Cheston CC, Flickinger TE, Chisolm MS. Social media use in medical education: a systematic review. Acad Med. 2013;88:893-901.
  3. Gray K, Sanchez FM, Bright G, Cheng A. E-collaboration in biomedical research: human factors and social mediaAdvancing Medical Practice Through Technology: Applications for Healthcare Delivery, Management, and Quality. Hershey, PA: IGI Global; 2013:102-120.