Facebook To Help Organ Donors Find Recipients

Over 114,000 people are currently waiting for an organ transplant in the US and an average of 18 people die a day waiting for transplant. Mark Zuckerberg announced a change today that hopes to give more people the transplants they need.

The life events section on the Facebook timeline chronicles important moments in a user’s life- the day they got married, started a new job, or bought a new house.

And today, Facebook announced a new section that will chronicle another momentous life event- when, where, and why a user became an organ donor.

Mark Zuckerberg explains why Facebook decided to add the organ donor status feature to users’ timelines:

People are using the same social tools that they’re using just to keep in touch with people on a day-to-day basis to solve these important social issues. So, we figured, okay, well, could we do anything that would help people solve other types of issues, like all of the people who need organ donations in the world? And we came up with this pretty simple thing which we’re hopeful can help out just in the same way that people have done all these other things.

According to the United Network for Organ Sharing, over 114,000 people in the United States are currently waiting for vital organ transplants–but because of the lopsided supply-and-demand of those giving organs and those needing organs, only about 25% of those waiting for a transplant (28,000 patients) received one in 2011, and an average of 18 people a day die waiting for an organ transplant because there aren’t enough organ donors to meet demand.

Zuckerberg, in an interview on May 1, said he hopes to leverage Facebook’s social network to bring a greater awareness to the issue:

What we hope will happen is that by just having this simple tool, we think that people can really help spread awareness of organ donation and that they want to participate in this to their friends.  That can be a big part of helping solve the crisis that’s out there.

If a user is already an organ donor, she can add her organ donor status to her timeline (found under the health and wellness section of life events), and start sharing this information through her newsfeed (like any information on Facebook, users can control who gets the  news).  If a user is not a previously registered donor, the new feature helps direct unregistered users to the appropriate state donor registry.

The new feature shows promise for increasing awareness and organ matches– even before the organ donor status feature was announced, many people successfully used Facebook as a tool to find a match for needed transplants.

Watch a quick video below on how to update your timeline with your organ donor status:

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