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Facebook’s Organ Donation: Good Idea or Privacy Nightmare?

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.

Organ donation status on Facebook

You can use your Facebook Timeline to advertise your organ donor status

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.

Methodist healthcare organ donation on Facebook

Methodist Healthcare using Facebook to encourage organ donation


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?



  1. Since the kidney surgery I have been educated on medical tems: Bleb: air bubble that happens when your lung collapse during surgery, mine did but partial, am I in pain,,Yep been in pain on the right side rib cage since the surgery March 30th…but, good news is it will heal itself, in about 5 months or so. Can it come back, yep…so at least I know it is not anything serious. Kidney donor: You will take care of any problems after surgery correct: Methodist: yes…oh, really, try to make an appt after surgery for any…and I mean ANY problems and you will be told to go to your primary doctor which does not specialize in any of the problems you may exp:..they just don’t want to have to document on a donor…they just want the documtation on the person getting the kidney…get my POINT

  2. I will warn people: DO NOT be a donor without insurance: Methodist will not be there for you after the surgery/ trust me on this one…they will not take your calls/ Methodist of San Antonio Texas sucks:… insurance don’t donate……

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