American Medical News | Kevin B O'Reilly
With more than 90,000 U.S. patients needing kidneys, only a dramatic expansion in living donations would meet the growing demand for organs.
Facebook’s move to allow users to add their organ-donor registration status as a “life event” on their profile pages led to a surge in donor sign-ups and earned the company plaudits from physicians and other professionals in the transplant community.
But experts warn that the social-networking behemoth’s action will not be enough to solve the U.S. organ shortage and could pose ethical problems for patients and families while trivializing the decision to donate.
As of mid-May, Facebook reported that more than 100,000 of its users had publicly declared their status as organ donors with the site’s new functionality.
To post donor registration as a life event, users are asked to specify where they had registered and when they signed up. If they are not registered, Facebook members can click a link that will take them to their state’s donor registry site. As with other updates to the site, users can decide whether to share the information with everyone or only a few friends.
More than 33,000 Facebook members were newly registered as donors in the week after the site’s announcement, said Donate Life America, a national alliance of registries and organ procurement organizations that is participating in the social network’s initiative. Forty-three percent of U.S. adults already were registered as donors before the Facebook action.
Many states saw huge jumps in registrations. In Illinois, for example, 540 people signed up as donors between January and April. On May 1, when the Facebook policy was announced, 748 people registered through Donate Life Illinois, said Dave Bosch, the group’s spokesman.
The early results are wonderfully encouraging, physicians said. They added that the publicity afforded by Facebook’s pervasive presence in U.S. life — one in two Americans is a member of the service, and 60% of members check the site daily — could greatly increase the number of people willing to donate their organs after they die, while raising awareness of the organ shortage.