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Volume: 12 Issue: 4 August 2014


Celebrities as Role Models to Increase National Organ Donation in Iran

Key words : Media, Transplant, Waiting list

Dear Editor:

Imagine that a beautiful young girl needs a heart transplant. She is living a difficult life because of end-stage congestive heart disease. She will receive a heart from a boy who was killed during a fight at his wedding ceremony. The family of the boy is in sorrow, but eventually agrees to donate the boy’s heart to the girl. This is the plot of “To Be or Not to Be,” an Iranian movie that was made in 1997 by Kianush Ayyari.1 The movie was well received, screened on the national television channel, and watched by millions of people. The movie depicted the challenging life of a person on the transplant waiting list and the challenges associated with decisions about organ donation. The movie also showed how rewarding it may be to donate organs, even when a family is in pain because of the unexpected loss of a loved one. The film effectively communicated the message that organ donation may transform loss to gain, sadness to happiness.

The story becomes more poignant. In 2013, the actress Asal Badiei, who played the role of the beautiful young organ recipient, was diagnosed as brain dead and her family agreed to organ donation because they were aware of her willingness to be an organ donor.2 The news about her organ donation was heard throughout Iran, and thousands of Iranians participated in her funeral. Organ donation came under media attention, and thousands of Iranians registered as organ donors and received their donor card from the national organ donation registry Web site in a short time.2 To date, the Web site has issued cards for 1 102 689 people (women, 53%; men, 47%).

Recently, an Iranian national athlete (competitive skier) was diagnosed as brain dead, and his family agreed to donate his organs.3 Several days later, all the players of one of the best Iranian soccer teams registered for organ donation.

It may seem difficult to change a nation’s attitude about organ donation in a short period, but the mass media is a powerful instrument to help effect major changes. I believe that organ donation should be promoted among celebrities and superstars. When a celebrity who has an organ donor card dies, and the family agrees about donation, the message reaches millions of people who may be inspired to register for organ donation.

In most countries, celebrities are under media attention, especially in the modern era. I believe that the organ donation system in many countries will benefit from interventions to promote organ donation among celebrities and other influential people. Mass media should be used to promote norms related to organ donation in different countries, and the Iranian experience may be a model for other countries.3-6 We do need role models to help promote organ donation, and celebrities are effective role models for our organ donation campaigns.


  1. Ayyari K. To Be or Not t o Be. IMDb Web site. Accessed April 15, 2014.
  2. Organ Donation, Organ Donation Live. Iran Ehda Web site. Accessed April 15, 2014.
  3. Feeley TH, Vincent D 3rd. How organ donation is represented in newspaper articles in the United States. Health Commun. 2007;21(2):125-131.
    CrossRef - PubMed
  4. Horton RL. Marketing the concept of becoming a potential organ donor. J Health Care Mark. 1991;11(3):36-45.
  5. Siminoff LA, Gordon N, Hewlett J, Arnold RM. Factors influencing families' consent for donation of solid organs for transplantation. JAMA. 2001;286(1):71-77.
    CrossRef - PubMed
  6. Rady MY, McGregor JL, Verheijde JL. Mass media campaigns and organ donation: managing conflicting messages and interests. Med Health Care Philos. 2012;15(2):229-241.
    CrossRef - PubMed

Volume : 12
Issue : 4
Pages : 388 - 389
DOI : 10.6002/ect.2014.0058


From the Department of Health Behavior and Health Education; and Center for Research on Ethnicity, Culture, and Health, School of Public Health, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI, USA; and Social Determinants of Health Research Center, University of Social Welfare and Rehabilitation, Tehran, Iran
Acknowledgements: The author has no conflicts of interest to declare, and there was no funding for this study.
Corresponding author: Shervin Assari, Postdoctoral Research Scholar, Department of Health Behavior and Health Education, School of Public Health, University of Michigan
2847 SPH I, 1415 Washington Heights, Ann Arbor, MI 48109-2029, USA; and Assistant Professor, Social Determinants of Health Research Center, University of Social Welfare and Rehabilitation, Tehran, Iran
Phone: +1 734 858 8333
Phone: +1 734 763 7379