Facebook announced today a new feature that has the potential to save thousands of lives: organ donation status for Timeline. Users of the social network will now be able to advertise to the world how much they truly have to give.
“Today, more than 114,000 people in the United States, and millions more around the globe, are waiting for the heart, kidney or liver transplant that will save their lives,” wrote Facebook in a statement. “Many of those people – an average of 18 people per day – will die waiting, because there simply aren’t enough organ donors to meet the need. Medical experts believe that broader awareness about organ donation could go a long way toward solving this crisis. And we believe that by simply telling people that you’re an organ donor, the power of sharing and connection can play an important role.”
The new organ donor status lets users show not only that they are an organ donor, but also tell their story “about when, where, or why” they decided to become a donor. Facebook also provides links to state and national registries for users who have not already signed up to be an organ donor.
Facebook co-founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg first hinted at the “life-saving” feature during an interview with ABC News’ Robin Roberts, which aired in full this morning on “Good Morning America.” ABC News released teaser excerpts of the interview on Monday to generate buzz.
“Facebook is really about communicating and telling stories… We think that people can really help spread awareness of organ donation and that they want to participate in this to their friends. And that can be a big part of helping solve the crisis that’s out there,” said Zuckerberg during the interview.
Zuckerberg said that the idea for the organ donation status came from conversations with his girlfriend, Priscilla Chan, a medical student training to become a pediatrician. The 27-year-old billionaire also said that the early death of friend and late Apple CEO Steve Jobs, whose life was made longer though a liver transplant, also contributed to the launch of the noble status update.
“That definitely, I think, was something that we all had in mind as we were building this out… His story is just one of many, of people who both were able to have an organ transplant that made his life longer and he was extremely thankful for that,” Zuckerberg told ABC News.
Facebook currently has more than 900 million active monthly users. With such a vast number of people connected together, experts believe the organ donor status could radically alter the way the current organ donation system works simply by adding more donors to the list. Currently, there are not enough donors to meet the demands of those who need organ transplant.
“This is going to be an historic day in transplant,” Dr. Andrew Cameron, surgical director of liver transplant at Johns Hopkins Hospital, told The New York Times. “The math will radically change, and we may well eliminate the problem.”
Watch a video about how to add your organ donor status below: