Facebook moves to help organ donations

2012-05-01 22:30

Washington - Facebook on Tuesday unveiled an initiative to use the vast social network to help connect organ donors with people who need life-saving transplants.

Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg announced the initiative and became one of the first Facebook users to sign up to donate on the social network.

Members of Facebook in the United States and Britain can now indicate that they are organ donors on their timelines, and if they are not donors, they can find links to official organ donation registries and instantly enrol.

"Facebook is really about communicating and telling stories," Zuckerberg told ABC News.

"We think that people can really help spread awareness of organ donation and that they want to participate in this to their friends. And that can be a big part of helping solve the crisis that's out there."

Steve Jobs

Zuckerberg said he was motivated to launch the programme by conversations with his girlfriend, who is a medical student, and his friendship with Apple co-founder Steve Jobs, whose life was extended by a liver transplant.

"We want to make it simple," said Zuckerberg. "You just put in the state or country that you're from, so that we can help link you to the official registries."

In the "health and wellness" section of users' timelines, users can list their status as organ donors and explain the decision to their friends, in an effort to raise awareness about the need for donors.

"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," Zuckerberg said in a statement with Facebook chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg.

An estimated 18 people die every day from the lack of available organs, according to Donate Life America, a non-profit alliance that is partnering with Facebook.

"We can't thank Facebook enough for the organisation's commitment to helping save lives by encouraging Americans to register as organ, eye and tissue donors...Thousands of lives will be saved or healed as a result of this initiative," said David Fleming, president and chief executive of Donate Life America.

"We want to encourage every Facebook user to take a moment and update their timeline, register to be a donor, and share their decision with family and friends. It is a simple way to provide hope for those in need."

Personal life

Zuckerberg, 27, who is known for avoiding the public limelight, disclosed some details of his personal life in the ABC interview, describing his chats with girlfriend Priscilla Chan that helped lead to the donation initiative.

"She's in medical school now," Zuckerberg said of Chan.

"She's going to be a paediatrician, so our dinner conversations are often about Facebook and the kids that she's meeting."

He told ABC that Chan told him about patients she meets "getting sicker as they don't have the organ that they need" and other fortunate cases where children ultimately received transplants. Zuckerberg called the accounts "unbelievable".

Describing one case of a boy needing a heart transplant, Chan told Zuckerberg the boy's skin had turned blue from lack of oxygen, but within weeks of receiving a transplant he was out again playing sports.

"How can that not make you happy?" he said.

Zuckerberg also said the death of Steve Jobs, whom he called a "friend", helped inspire the project.

"That definitely, I think, was something that we all had in mind as we were building this out," Zuckerberg said. "His story is just one of many, of people who both were able to have an organ transplant that made his life longer and he was extremely thankful for that."

Jobs died on October 5 of pancreatic cancer at the age of 56. But his life was extended by a liver transplant in 2009 that enabled him to return to the helm of Apple.

The number of people using Facebook had risen to 901 million by the end of the quarter, according to company documents.

Facebook is expected to make its much-anticipated stock market debut in the coming weeks in a public offering which could raise as much as $10bn, the largest flotation ever by an internet company on Wall Street.

  • sello.molekwa.1 - 2012-05-01 22:42

    Great move Facebook! The challenge with social networks is that they need new innovation everyday or else the service may simply become boring and start to lose relevance fast. At some point chatting on Facebook will be so past and people will just want new interesting innovations. You start an online service, you must re-invent it for your whole life. Its a never ending cycle.

      Preshen - 2012-05-03 07:44

      Facebook helps guys get laid and now organ donation great work !!!

  • sally.lewitt - 2012-05-01 23:10

    Brilliant move!! Well done Facebook!

  • shireen.abbas - 2012-05-02 00:01


  • Dee - 2012-05-02 01:59

    Call me paranoid - but I don't like advertising anything that someone could benefit from my death by?! ......... Don't you usually have to be dead before organs are harvested - or really hard up to want to sell a kidney?

  • jeanne.apelseth - 2012-05-02 02:40

    Watch this video. It might help convince you:

      Dee - 2012-05-02 16:48

      Sorry - I still don't 'get it' - Perhaps because I subscribe to quality rather than quantity of life and cannot relate emotionally, intellectually and nor spiritualy to the (typically American) notion that we should all be 'living forever' - and thus all manner of extraordinary measures to keep (old folk) alive are justified. They are not IMO. I would rather discuss legalising assisted suicide. And yes, I do have a living will that emphatically refuses medical extension of my life. Please treat me with the same compassion you would a well loved dog. BTW - I'm the same age as the fella in the youtube clip.

  • Koos - 2012-05-02 04:34

    Can you specify who is not allowed to get your donations?

  • colleen.thane - 2012-05-02 04:36

    Why only in US and Britain?

      Koos - 2012-05-02 04:54

      The only thing that can be donated by Africa is poverty and a slow puncture.

      Koos - 2012-05-02 04:54

      The only thing that can be donated by Africa is poverty and a slow puncture.

  • lenique.bossr - 2012-05-02 10:25

    This is awesome :) i hope that it will be available in S.A soon!! Well done to the fb team :)

  • Toinette - 2012-05-02 11:25

    My sister had a heart transplant 12 years ago and this is great news! Hope it's coming to SA soon.

  • Bronwen.Stewart1 - 2012-05-02 19:35

    Fantastic news!!! Giving this gift to another family....should be honoured more...we at The Heart of Cape Town Museum, Cape Town LOVE this Facebook!!! THANK YOU <3<3<3

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