Early Tuesday morning, Facebook announced that it was encouraging its users to share their organ-donor status on their personal timelines, along with their birth dates, relationship status and schools they attended.
And to make it easy for people to become organ donors, the social networking site offered links to official organ-donor registries.
By 2 p.m. on Tuesday, almost 100 new Minnesota donors had signed up online through LifeSource, the St. Paul-based nonprofit organization that manages organ and tissue donations in Minnesota and other states in the Upper Midwest.
That’s about 98 more than sign up on a typical day.
“It think it’s fantastic,” said LifeSource spokesperson Susan Mau Larson about Facebook’s initiative. “We had a little indication that something big was happening today, but we didn’t know what it was.”
The initiative will probably have a snowballing effect, she added. As people notice their friends listing “organ donor” on their personal pages, they’ll be spurred to take similar action.
Makes intent clearer
Some people may not realize that declaring your donor status on Facebook is not the same as actually registering as a donor. Even so, such declarations may lead to more donations, said Larson. For although a Facebook declaration doesn’t carry the legal weight of signing up through a state’s motor vehicle department or through an online registry, it may persuade families that a just-deceased loved one’s intent was to donate their organs.
“It’s important to register your wishes to donate,” Larson said, “and this offers another opportunity to share that information with your friends and family.”
Demand greater than supply
Organs are always in short supply. As of March 2012, more than 113,000 people were waiting for a potentially lifesaving transplant in the United States, and thousands more were waiting for tissue or cornea transplants to restore their mobility or sight, according to Donate Life America. Tragically, many never receive them. Each year 7,000 Americans die while waiting for a donated organ, reports the National Institutes of Health.
Fortunately, Minnesota is a leader in the nation for organ donations, said Larson. More than 60 percent of adults in the state have registered to be donors, compared to 42 percent nationwide. (Those rates ranged from 7 percent in Texas to 76 percent in Alaska in 2010.)
But the demand for organs in Minnesota still outstrips the supply. About 3,200 Minnesotans are currently waiting for organs, said Larson. Most — 2,300 individuals — are in need of a kidney transplant, a procedure that has a very high success rate.
“It’s the 40 percent of the people who haven’t yet made that decision to become donors who we really encourage to make use of [the Facebook] opportunity,” Larson said.
And Facebook users do appear to be taking advantage of that opportunity. By the end of the workday on Tuesday, the number of newly registered Minnesota donors had continued to climb — to 119. A small number, perhaps, when considering the overall need for registered donors (Donate Life hopes to register 20 million donors in 2012), but a huge increase in registrants for a single day.
For more information about becoming a registered organ donor, go to www.donatelifemidwest.org.