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Monday, May 7, 2012

Facebook launches organ donor campaign

Users in the United States and the U.K. can enroll as organ donors via links to official registries on the world's biggest social networking site, said CEO Mark Zuckerberg. The links should make it easier for people who want to donate their organs to sign up.

Facebook users who are already organ donors can add that information to their profile page, now known as their timeline.

Zuckerberg said his friendship with Apple Inc. co-founder Steve Jobs, who had received a liver transplant before he died last year, helped spur the idea, as did talks with his girlfriend Priscilla Chan, a medical student.

More than 112,000 Americans are waiting for organs and 18 people die every day from the lack of available organs, according to Donate Life America, a nonprofit that is teaming with Facebook.

There are currently 92,102 people in the United States waiting for a donor kidney, the organ that is in greatest demand, according to the Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network.

Last year, only 28,535 kidney transplants took place, with the majority of those donated from deceased donors.

That disparity leaves many waiting in line for a donor organ to become available, a process that can take three or four years, said Joel Newman, a spokesperson for the United Network for Organ Sharing.

In many cases, people simply do not think about becoming an organ donor, Newman said. He hopes Zuckerberg's call to have people add their donor status to their Facebook Timeline will increase awareness of the need for organ donors.

"Organ donation is generally something many people think is a wonderful thing, but many people just haven't made that decision," Newman said.

Surveys show that as many as 90 per cent of Americans support organ donation, but only about one-third of the 200 million licensed drivers in the US actually tick the box indicating consent to being an organ donor.

In the US, a person dies waiting for a transplant every four hours. While the need for organ donation continues to rise, donation rates have been nearly flat for the past 20 years.

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