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Can Facebook Save Lives?

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saving lives with facebook may be possible Photo: Courtesy of Jennifer Herlihy

If the first-day response is an indication, thousands of lives may be saved by social media. On May 1, 2012, Facebook announced a new feature making it easy to register as an organ donor, prompting more than 6,000 people in 22 state registries to enroll that day.

According to Donate Life America, which is working with Facebook, the typical rate for signups for those 22 states has been less than 400 a day.

By the end of the day, more than 100,000 people in the United States and United Kingdom had signed up to be organ donors, according to Facebook.

This is a tremendous public service for at least a couple of reasons:

First, too many people who need a donated organ like a kidney or liver die waiting because there is a profound organ shortage.

Second, some families refuse to let a loved one’s organs be donated, even if the person who died had previously said they wanted to be a donor.

Where Facebook comes in is by raising awareness publicly as to who is declaring themselves ready to donate, either after they die or maybe even for a friend or family member as a living donor.

That declaration may have legal standing so that an organ donation can go forward even if a family member tries to stand in the way. After all, it is your body and your wishes that count.

Online health media such as EmpowHER, and social media like Facebook, have tremendous power to do good. Encouraging organ donation where there is a lifesaving purpose is a great place to start.

And because of the 526 million members Facebook has worldwide, this can have much more impact than a symbol on your driver’s license in the states that encourage organ donation.

If hearing about this has created interest in organ donation, I encourage you to learn more about this from both experts who work in this field of medicine, and from patients who have benefited from organ transplants.

A good place to start is the Organ Donation Health Center on Patient Power at http://www.patientpower.info/health-topic/organ-donation/

You can also meet transplant recipient Jennifer Herlihy who says today she is healthier than ever. The University of Washington’s Team Transplant played a key role in her complete recovery.

She now runs long races and inspires others that there can be a full life after organ transplant. Jennifer calls herself "very lucky" to have had this second chance at health and life:

Since there’s a good chance you are on Facebook, look for this new option to declare yourself a willing donor to friends and family. You also have the option to keep your organ donor status private.

You can register in other ways, such as through Donate Life America: http://donatelife.net/

Of course, if you haven’t considered listing yourself as a donor, please do so. It can save a life, and now, Facebook is doing the right thing by putting the power of social media behind this cause.

About the author: Andrew Schorr is a medical journalist, cancer survivor and founder of Patient Power, a one-of-a-kind company bringing in-depth information to patients with cancer and chronic illness. Audio and video programs, plus transcripts, help patients make informed decisions to support their health in partnership with their medical team.

Patient Power is at www.PatientPower.info and on Facebook, YouTube and Twitter. Schorr is also the author of “The Web Savvy Patient: An Insider's Guide to Navigating the Internet When Facing Medical Crisis" found at www.websavvypatient.com/


Interview, Jennifer Herlihy, Liver Transplant Recipient, Seattle, Wash.,11/29/10, Posted online on Patient Power:

USA Today, New Facebook feature encourages organ donation, 5/1/12, http://www.usatoday.com/news/health/story/2012-05-01/Facebook-organ-donation-feature/54671522/1

Huffington Post, Facebook Organ Donor Initiative Prompts 100,000 Users To Select New Option, 5/2/12, http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/05/02/facebook-organ-donor-users_n_1471821.html

Donate Life America:

Donate Life America Facebook Page:

Reviewed May 4, 2012
by Michele Blacksberg RN
Edited by Jody Smith

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