UPDATE: The organ donor option is only available in the United States and United Kingdom for its launch, but it has prompted an organ donor rush in Canada anyway.
Facebook today announced plans to add organ donor preferences to people’s profiles, encouraging users to make becoming an organ donor a “life Event” on their timeline:
From their press release:
“What has amazed us over the past eight years is how people use these same tools and social dynamics to address important issues and challenges in their communities. Last year in Missouri, Facebook users tracked down and returned treasured mementos to families who thought they’d lost everything in the Joplin tornado. In Japan, people used Facebook to locate family and friends following the 2011 earthquake and tsunami. Smaller acts of kindness happen millions of times a day on Facebook.
We never could have anticipated that what started as a small network would evolve into such a powerful tool for communication and problem solving. As this happens, we hope to build tools that help people transform the way we all solve worldwide social problems.
Today, more than 114,000 people in the United States, and millions more around the globe, are waiting for the heart, kidney or liver transplant that will save their lives. Many of those people – an average of 18 people per day – will die waiting, because there simply aren’t enough organ donors to meet the need. Medical experts believe that broader awareness about organ donation could go a long way toward solving this crisis. And we believe that by simply telling people that you’re an organ donor, the power of sharing and connection can play an important role.”
This program is not an official registry of organ donation, but rather a place to make family aware of a user’s intentions if they are called upon to give consent. Facebook had 901 million monthly active users at the end of March 2012. By making the very real (but posthumous) commitment to donate your organs easy to make and share, this program will allow family to make decisions about unregistered donors more confidently. Plus, those who choose to make their donor status public will most likely influence others.
The impact on donation numbers could be immense. Andrew M. Cameron, the surgical director of liver transplantation at Johns Hopkins Hospital, told the New York Times, “This is going to be an historic day in transplant.”
Dr. Cameron, said that people who die for want of an organ do so mostly because there are not enough organ donors, not because of any shortcomings in medical technology, adding: “The math will radically change, and we may well eliminate the problem.”
I don’t see the option on my “life events” menu yet, but once it’s there I’ll be sure to share.
See a “how-to” video from Facebook after the break.
The New York Times