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Facebook wants you to be an organ donor

Published: Tuesday, May 1 2012 7:42 a.m. MDT

Facebook announced Tuesday that it is launching a giant initiative to increase awareness about organ donation.

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Facebook is breaking new ground in the realm of social media by actively encouraging its users to become organ donors.

In a news release issued Tuesday morning, Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg and COO Sheryl Sandberg jointly explained the decision: "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. … Medical experts believe that broader awareness about organ donation could go a long way toward solving this crisis. 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.

"Starting today, you can add that you’re an organ donor to your timeline, and share your story about when, where or why you decided to become a donor. If you’re not already registered with your state or national registry and want to be, you’ll find a link to the official donor registry there as well."

Zuckerberg revealed to ABC News that "conversations over the dinner table with his med-student girlfriend" and "his friendship with Apple founder Steve Jobs, whose life was extended by years following a liver transplant" helped spark this new initiative.

"Facebook is really about communicating and telling stories," Zuckerberg said to 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.”

The New York Times focused its reporting of Tuesday's announcement on the unique nature and practical implications of Facebook's decision to throw its heft behind encouraging organ donation.

"It is a rare foray by Facebook into social engineering from social networking, and one with a potentially profound effect, according to experts in the field of organ donation. … These experts say Facebook could create an informal alternative to such registries that could, even though it carries less legal weight, lead to more organ donations. That is because a disclosure on Facebook could provide the evidence of consent that family members need when deciding whether to donate the organs of a loved one, said Dr. Andrew M. Cameron, the surgical director of liver transplantation at Johns Hopkins Hospital. 'This is going to be an historic day in transplant,' said Dr. Cameron."

Last year the Deseret News' Allison Pond wrote a compelling article that explored myths about religion and organ donation — specifically, why "as many as 20 percent of those who decline to be organ donors in Utah and Idaho mention religion" even though "no major religion prohibits organ donation."

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