Facebook begins organ donor initiative

Facebook’s announcement of its new initiative to encourage organ donation attracted attention from one television network and numerous print media sources.

ABC World News reported “a big announcement today from Facebook, where hundreds of millions of people have the power to change the world.” Every single day, “mothers, fathers, [and] children wait on the organ transplant list, desperate, hoping for a donation to save them. Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and his power-house top executive Sheryl Sandberg are taking action tonight, hoping to form a link between that need and life-saving donors.”

“The company announced a plan to encourage everyone on Facebook to start advertising their donor status on their pages, along with their birth dates and schools – a move that it hopes will create peer pressure to nudge more people to add their names to the rolls of registered organ donors,” the New York Times reports.

“It is a rare foray by Facebook into social engineering from social networking, and one with a potentially profound effect, according to experts in the field of organ donation.”

Experts “say people declaring on Facebook that they are organ donors could spur others to sign up at motor vehicle departments or online registries.”

USA Today reports, “Facebook is partnering with Donate Life America, a national umbrella organization for local groups working to increase the number of registered organ, eye and tissue donors.”

Currently, “only about 43%, of US adults have signed up to be an organ donor through a state registry – often accessed through their state Department of Motor Vehicles and listed on their driver’s licenses.”

The new initiative by Facebook “will ‘help bring out the conversation about organ donation,’ said Jeffrey Punch, chief of transplantation surgery at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor.”

The AP points out, “More than 112,000 Americans are waiting for organs and 18 people die every day from the lack of available organs, according to Donate Life America, a nonprofit that is teaming with Facebook.”

According to the Washington Post “Wonkblog,” there is currently “not much in the way of academic research on how social networking can influence organ donation decisions. But if we wanted to significantly increase the number of American organ donors, the health economics literature does suggest one nearly-surefire strategy: Presumed consent.”

The Post explains, “Under presumed consent legislation, a deceased individual is classified as a possible donor unless he or she explicitly objects prior to death.”

The Boston Globe “Daily Dose” blog points out, “While the Facebook initiative will, no doubt, help increase the donor pool, some experts contend that the biggest impact on the organ shortage could occur from people stepping up to volunteer to be living organ donors – providing a spare kidney or portion of their liver to someone in need. (That’s, of course, a lot tougher than giving away your organs in the event of an unexpected and premature death.)”

In its coverage of the story, Reuters lists the steps people should take to become organ donors. The piece also urges readers to consider donating blood, for which the need is always great, and/or registering on the national bone marrow registry to help patients with blood cancers.

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