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California gets boost in organ donors after Facebook update

May 01, 2012|By Michelle Maltais
  • Screen shot from the video explaining how Facebook users can include their donor status in their biographical details.
Screen shot from the video explaining how Facebook users can include their… (Facebook )

Facebook sharing can be more than an idle waste of time. California's organ donor registry says it has experienced an 800% boost in registrations following the social networking site's new initiative allowing users to share their donation intentions.

Donate Life California wrote on its Facebook page Tuesday: "As of 12:30pm today, the Donate Life California registry has increased its online donor sign ups by nearly 800% from yesterday thanks to this mornings announcement of the partnership with Facebook! Thank you Facebook!"

Facebook Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg announced Tuesday on ABC's "Good Morning America" that the social networking site would now include donor designations in its biographical information.

Donate Life California's Chief Executive Charlene Zettel told The Times that the Facebook effect was "tremendous" in California and across the country.

News organizations and blogs that might not otherwise are talking about organ and tissue donation. (In case you didn't know, ligaments, veins, corneas, heart valves, bone and skin are among the human tissue that can be donated.)

The wait list can range from six to eight years, depending on the organ needed, she said.

Of the 20,762 people on California's organ wait list, 353 are children younger than 18; and 15 are younger than 1, Zettel told The Times. Ages 50 to 64 account for 9,746 of those on the list.

Zuckerberg told "GMA" on Tuesday morning that his pediatrician girlfriend was a significant influence in his decision to make this available. (Slashgear pointed out that as of Tuesday afternoon, Zuckerberg hadn’t updated his own donor status on his Facebook page.)

Facebook boasts more than 900 million monthly active users making more than 125 billion friend connections at the end of March. And Facebook reaches a huge cross-section of the country -- and the world.

Organ donation is notably sparse among various groups such as Asian Americans, African Americans and Native Americans. Zettel said "it's important to have a diverse group of donors to select from ... . Nothing is doing education like Facebook did this morning. "

Zettel said, "today, statistically, one-third on [the wait] list will die before an available organ is presented to them." By providing information and access to the "millennials" who engage in social networking as a foundation for communication, "we're going to change these statistics."

While 96% of the more than 9 million Californians on the registry have come from the state Department of Motor Vehicles, the influence is clear.

"There are 113,953 people on the national transplant waiting list," Zettel said. "Facebook has given hope to each and every one of them."

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