Facebook and Organ Donation: Sharing LifePosted by HCGH on Jun 5, 2012 in Health, News | 2 comments
Hopkins doctors focus the social network on a difficult problem
A crisis in our country
Today, 18 Americans will die waiting on a transplant list for an organ that doesn’t come. Over 100,000 Americans wait on the list and still the gap between donations and those waiting has only widened over the last decades. In fact, over the last twenty years, despite the efforts of many in the public health arena, the number of donors per year has remained essentially unchanged while waiting recipients have increased almost tenfold. This crisis in our country is largely a social problem which requires increased efforts in education and discussion.
Why don’t people register to become donors?
Some may have not thought about the topic, or feel uncomfortable discussing the issue of their own mortality. Some may not have had a convenient or appropriate opportunity to register or may be confused by the process. Others may be under misconceptions that consent will result in a less vigorous attempt to save their life when ill, or that the transplant system is somehow unfair. When polled, the American public is overwhelmingly supportive of donation and organ transplantation (95% in favor) but ultimately only 30-50% in any given state are registered by the DMV. As each donor has the potential to save eight or more lives with donation, changing donation rates would have a major impact on the problem.
The Facebook Organ Donor Initiative
On May 1st, Facebook altered their “Timeline” platform to allow users to select “organ donor” as part of their profile status. (Here’s a link to show you how to do it! It’s easy!) When a person selects the organ donor option on Facebook, two important things happen. First, they are given a link to their state donor registry. This quick, easy, and free process takes just 2 minutes and makes it official. Secondly, when a person selects “organ donor” on Facebook, their friends are made aware of this decision and are given the option to do the same themselves. If someone considering organ donation remains unsure about the decision, Facebook offers links to provide information on the facts and myths of the organ donation process. It is our hope that discussion and awareness on the great need for organ donation goes viral on Facebook and we can turn the tables on this problem.
How are we Doing?
In the first couple of days after Facebook started offering “organ donor” as a profile status over 100,000 members chose the option. We have examined state donor registries in all 50 states for the first week of May and see a 1,000% increase in donation rates across the country! Facebook plans to roll out the organ donor option in every country on the planet and soon all of Facebook’s one billion users will have easy access to donor registration. Discussion and communication “amongst friends” may be the way to get people thinking about organ donation and agreeing to share the gift of life. Together we can work together, share life, and solve the crisis that we face, today!