Right now there are more than 114,000 Americans waiting for kidneys, livers, hearts and other vital organs that could save their lives, according to the United Network for Organ Sharing. And only a small fraction of those needs are fulfilled.
Will Facebook be the game-changer?
The social networking site that has expedited high school reunions and viral videos has also facilitated its share of positive effects, but with the announcement of a new organ donation initiative, CEO Mark Zuckerberg is proactively taking this important cause and placing it directly in the hands of Facebook’s 1 billion members.
The new tool lets Facebook users show that they want to be organ donors in the event of their death. If a user is not already officially registered as an organ donor, the feature directs them to the appropriate donor registry in their state.
And of course, there’s the option to share a personal story, picture or video. (This is Facebook, after all.)
"What we hope will happen is that by just having this simple tool, we think that people can really help spread awareness of organ donation and that they want to participate in this to their friends," Zuckerberg told ABC News. "That can be a big part of helping solve the crisis that's out there."
Surveys have shown that most Americans support organ donation, but only about 40 percent of the adult population register as organ donors.
"There have been so many public health campaigns to get people to sign up to be organ donors. Unfortunately, they just haven't been very successful," said ABC News' chief health and medical editor, Dr. Richard Besser. "This Facebook initiative is absolutely ingenious. Imagine what happens if signing up to be a donor goes viral and becomes a cool thing to do? Problem solved!"
The new tool launches May 1 in the U.S. and U.K. Here's the how-to: