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Facebook share could save lives: Posting your organ donor status

May 01, 2012|By Michelle Maltais | This post has been corrected, as indicated below.
  • Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg, pictured delivering a keynote during the Facebook f8 Developer Conference in San Francisco, announced that the social network will add organ donor status to its member profiles.
Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg, pictured delivering a keynote… (Kimihiro Hoshino / AFP/Getty…)

Would you share your organ donor status on Facebook?  You share what you're making for dinner, how your garden grows, where you're going on vacation and every moment of it, those embarrassing Vegas photos, your family connections, your marital status and your religion. And when your friends say share a post to raise awareness about cancer, you update your status for an hour. But what about your organs?

Mark Zuckerberg is hoping you will.

On "Good Morning America" on Tuesday, Zuckerberg and company Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg announced that Facebook is letting those U.S.- and U.K.-based users among its 900 million members add whether they’re an organ donor to their timelines and the story behind the decision to become one. There's also a link to the official donor registry for those inspired to become a donor.

This will be part of a larger Health and Wellness section in the biographical information, including details such as a member's weight loss.

"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," the Facebook announcement reads. "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.... 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."

Zuckerberg told "GMA's" Robin Roberts that he was inspired to add this element by his pediatrician girlfriend and by his mentor Steve Jobs, whose battle with cancer involved a liver transplant.

 

While some members plan to proudly post their donor status, others have said that this is a deeply private decision that is fine to indicate with a red dot on a driver's license but might not be something they'd put on display in Facebook.

The way of the day, however, is to reveal and share the personal and to connect in ways previously left to individual face-to-face interactions, if at all. This new addition to Facebook is already generating discussion about organ donation, which was one the company's goals in introducing the feature. 

"We never could have anticipated that what started as a small network would evolve into such a powerful tool for communication and problem solving," Zuckerberg and Sandberg wrote in the company's statement. "As this happens, we hope to build tools that help people transform the way we all solve worldwide social problems."

[For the Record, 10:55 a.m. May 1: An earlier version of this post said that Facebook is letting its 900 million U.S. members update their organ donor status. Not all of the 900 million members live in the U.S.]

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