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Facebook Organ Donor Initiative Prompts 100,000 Users To Select New Option

By MIKE STOBBE 05/ 2/12 05:57 PM ET AP


ATLANTA — Thousands of Facebook users have signed up to be organ donors this week, thanks to a new feature on the social networking site that makes it easier to register.

The new option was announced Tuesday by Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg as a way to boost the number of potential organ donors. By the end of the day, 6,000 people had enrolled through 22 state registries, according to Donate Life America, which promotes donations and is working with Facebook. On a normal day, those states together see less than 400 sign up.

The response "dwarfs any past organ donation initiative," said David Fleming, chief executive of Donate Life America, in a statement.

The Facebook feature allows users to share their decision to be an organ donor on the website. More than 100,000 did that by Tuesday night, according to Facebook, which is working with Fleming's group to encourage Facebook users to also officially register as donors with their state.

A link on the site connects to online donor registries. At least 22,000 people had followed that link as of Wednesday afternoon. Information from 22 states indicates that a third or more of them filled out the form to register, said Donate Life America spokeswoman Aisha Michel.

California – where Facebook is headquartered – reported startling results. About 70 people register online as organ donors each day. But in the 24 hours after Zuckerberg's announcement, about 3,900 signed up.

"We're just thankful we have this opportunity to bring more people into the process," said Bryan Stewart, a spokesman for OneLegacy, which coordinates transplants in the Los Angeles area.

"We're looking forward to seeing how long this activity lasts, and at what level," he added.

Facebook, a social network site founded in 2004, has 526 million daily users around the world. It was Facebook's idea to add the option, after Zuckerberg took a personal interest in the issue, Michel said. The feature is available in the U.S. and the United Kingdom.

As with some personal information on Facebook, organ donor status can be kept private or shared publicly or only with friends.

More than 114,000 Americans are currently on waiting lists for transplants of kidneys, livers, hearts and other organs, according to United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS), the organization that runs the nation's transplant system. More than 6,600 died last year waiting for an organ.

According to UNOS, 43 percent of adults in the U.S. are registered as donors. Organs can only be used though under certain circumstances, such as when someone dies from a major head injury and a ventilator can keep the organs viable. Less than 1 percent of U.S. deaths annually are under such circumstances. And sometimes the opportunity is lost because family members didn't know about the person's wishes on organ donation.

The Facebook feature "is a unique opportunity for people to make their decision known," UNOS Executive Director Walter Graham, said on a statement.

Most people register as organ donors when they get a driver's licenses, but about 2 percent sign up through online registries. Both represent legal consent for adults. For children who want to be donors, parental consent is still required.



Donate Life America:

Facebook directions:

Flip through our slideshow for inspirational stories of organ donation facilitated through Facebook.
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  • Dad Gets A Miracle

    When Seattle dad Damon Brown was in need of a kidney, <a href="" target="_hplink">he set up a Facebook page and asked his friends and family members to share the link</a>. When he found a donor -- someone he knew but didn't consider a close friend -- she told him the good deed was for his kids, "because they deserve to have a dad around."

  • 29-Year-Old Turns To Facebook For Kidney

    Nathanael Adams got his first kidney transplant at 3 and now, at 29, is desperately seeking another one. The U.K. resident adheres to a strickt diet and relies on dialysis, <a href="" target="_hplink">the <em>Eastbourne Herald</em> reports</a> and he <a href="" target="_hplink">has set up a Facebook page</a> to try and find a match.

  • 17-Year-Old Hopes For Second Chance

    When 17-year-old Blake Jordan Pearce's body rejected his first kidney transplant, his mother took to Facebook to help find her son's second chance. "Just watching him just fight to live is excruciating, it is," <a href="" target="_hplink">Stephanie told</a>. "You have a kid and it's your heart."

  • Dad, 34, Looks To Facebook, Starts Nonprofit

    Staten Island dad Robert Columbia, 34, has turned to the <a href="" target="_hplink">Facebook community</a> to help find a kidney donor -- but he's not stopping there, <a href="" target="_hplink"></a> reports. Columbia is encouraging his supporters to get involved with organ and bone marrow donations and the nonprofit program he's starting, RJ Donatelife.

  • Kidney Recipient Is Now Hoping For A Liver Transplant

    After receiving a kidney transplant, Jim Jones and his wife, Sarah, thought the worst was over. But then the Cleveland, Tenn., couple got the heartbreaking news that Jim is now in need of a liver transplant. Although the waiting list is long, the Joneses <a href="" target="_hplink">told</a> that they are encouraging others to learn about organ donations via Facebook and Twitter.


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