Facebook becomes lifeline for some patients seeking organ donations

San Jose Mercury News | Queenie Wong

Left to right: Bobby Rubinstein, Jason Rubinstein holds Janine Rubinstein, Amanda Rubinstein holds Charlotte Rubinstein, Elijah Rubinstein and Jasmin Rubinstein were photographed in spring 2015. Jason Rubenstein, of Ohio, found a kidney donor through Facebook. (Photo by Susanna Holley Photography )

Jason Rubinstein's kidneys were failing, and as he anxiously waited for an organ transplant, the Ohio patient knew time wasn't on his side.

Rubinstein turned to Facebook to share his health struggles. His wife's friend from high school read the post, stepped up to donate and turned out to be a match.

"Up until the point where you're wheeled into the hospital room, you're nervous it's going to fail or something is going to backfire. I was so relieved when I found my donor," said Rubinstein, a father of five who had a transplant in 2010.

Five years later, a growing number of patients like Rubinstein are using the site to find living donors. Johns Hopkins Hospital is piloting an app to make it easier for people who need transplants to craft a Facebook post. And an ethical debate rages on in the medical community.

Some medical ethicists fear the use of social media creates a separate organ donation system in which the cutest kid or most computer literate person receives a transplant, allowing them to bypass long waits for organs from the deceased. Continue reading