A close friend of mine died at the early age of nineteen due to an undetected brain aneurysm. He was the only son with three younger sisters. In their time of grief, the family was approached by doctors to donate his organs. The parents agreed and Mike’s organs were able to save five people’s lives, including a 9-year-old boy.
This was back in 1992 when there were no social networking sites on the Internet to encourage organ donation.
Facebook Makes Organ Donation Social
Last week Mark Zuckerberg announced an initiative to encourage 100,000 users to sign up to become organ donors. According to Huff Post, by the end of day 6,000 people had enrolled in 22 state registries. These same states combined usually see less than 400 new donor agreements. 100,000 Facebookers had signed up by last Tuesday night.
Since Facebook has 526 million daily users worldwide, one wonders how far this initiative could go? Social organ donation will certainly expose more people to the idea. In my (and Mike’s) state of Arkansas the only time we are asked about organ donation is when we’re renewing our driver’s license or registering to vote.
Taking it a step further
Methodist Healthcare System in San Antonio, Texas has decided to take this initiative to their Facebook followers. To encourage organ donor recruitment, Methodist Healthcare is holding a contest.
Every fan who registers to become an organ donor with the Donate Life State Registry and shares their status with Methodist Healthcare by posting, “I am a lifesaver. I am an organ donor” will be eligible to win $2500 towards their favorite charity.
Pros and Problems
Some potential benefits of social (Facebook’s) organ donation initiatives:
- Increased awareness for organ donation
- Tremendous benefits to organ donor registries
- The likelihood of saving many more lives
- It is already initiating an important conversation
- The opportunity of moving people from ‘thinking about it’ to ‘making a commitment’.
Some unintended problems that may arise from this are:
- Concerns about how this information would be used and secured (given Facebook’s history with privacy issues).
- Discomfort about ‘advertising’ your status on Facebook may discourage many people
- Since organ donations occur after death, it will take years to fully realize the impact of this initiative
- The possibility that state databases and IT systems may not be equipped to handle the huge spikes that may result from Facebook’s initiative
Over to you: What do you think about Facebook’s social organ donation initiative? Good idea or nightmare?