Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Facebook’s Organ Donation Success Needs Follow-Up

by Sally Satel


May 8, 2012

Facebook Inc. took a momentous action last week. And I don’t mean its announced intention to sell shares for $28 to $35 in an initial public offering later this month.

Of more importance to at least one segment of the population was the company’s invitation to users to register to become organ donors. Forty-eight hours later, more than 100,000 people had indicated, on Facebook Timeline, their wish to be a donor when they die.

As a result, online state donor registries experienced a remarkable 23-fold surge, according to Donate Life America, a nonprofit alliance of national donor advocate organizations.

Better yet, a week later, the traffic was sustained. Typically, Web-based promotions lead to a spike of interest that dissipates within hours.

For the 114,000 people waiting for a kidney, liver, heart or lung -- 7,000 to 10,000 of whom die each year -- Facebook has performed a great public-health service. For more than two decades, advocates have been urging people to sign up as donors when they renew their driver’s license, yet only about 43 percent have done so. Facebook has made registering much easier.

And although this impressive achievement won’t be enough to fill the great demand for transplantable organs, it may also help show the way forward to encourage live donations.


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