Facebook has taken an initiative to connect organ transplant donors with needy recipients in an easy and efficient manner on their social networking site.
The new concept was realized after Harvard friends chief operating officer of Facebook, Sheryl Sandberg and transplant surgeon at Johns Hopkins, Andrew M. Cameron, M.D. met up at their 20th college reunion, where they had a causal talk about working together to save lives of thousands through using network platform.
Cameron spoke of how passionate he is about solving the perennial problem of transplantation i.e. the critical shortage of donated organs in the United States,
Their idea resulted in an initiative launched on Tuesday which will allow Facebook users to share their organ donor status with friends and family in the same way they share information on where they studied or their marital status.
In short, a potential donor will now also be a status on Facebook.
The creators hope that by starting a conversation with friends and family through social media, the discussion will go viral and raise awareness on the benefits of organ donation and choosing to register as organ donors.
“Doctors save lives one person at a time. Sheryl is able to reach people millions at a time,” says Cameron, who is also a surgical director of liver transplantation. “We have a public health problem that really just needs education, communication and discussion. It’s a great match.”
According to Cameron, more than 114,000 people are waiting for hearts, livers and kidneys and other organs in the United States and millions more around the globe, are waiting for transplants that will save their lives. Many of those people – an average of 18 people a day in the U.S. – will die waiting, because there simply aren’t enough organ donors to meet the need. As the need for organ donations on the rise, the rate of donation over the past 20 years is almost flat, despite widespread public health campaigns.
Clinical results of surveys lead into a thorough knowledge that more than 90 percent of Americans are in favor of organ transplantation, but only 30 percent of the 200 million in the U.S. with driver’s licenses are in practical stage of being an official organ donors. That leaves a large number of people in the middle who are conceptually in agreement with the idea but haven’t officially checked the box to make their wishes known.
“It’s an awkward and difficult conversation to have about what will happen to you after you die, and the department of motor vehicles is a particularly difficult environment in which to ask people to make important decisions about their lives,” Cameron says in a press release issued by John Hopkins on Tuesday. “But Facebook, where you are already sharing your wishes and thoughts and likes with your friends and loved ones, may be a natural place to share your feelings about organ donation. This application will make having that conversation even easier.”
Dr. Cameron and a team at Johns Hopkins intend to carefully study the effect the Facebook effort has on organ donation rates. If it is successful, Cameron believes it could be used as a prototype for tackling other challenging public health problems.
“Getting people to donate their organs has been an intractable public health problem. It stands in contrast to other public health campaigns such as seat belts or drunk driving, which have had major impacts,” Cameron says on John Hopkins press release report. “If we succeed on Facebook with organ donation, it could be a model for how to use of-the-moment social media to solve important medical issues.”
Robin Roberts, an ABC anchor on “Good Morning America” interviewed Mark Zuckerberg, the founder and CEO of Facebook, on Tuesday to share his insight on the initiative.
“We hope to build tools that help people transform the way we all solve worldwide social problems,” said Zuckerberg. “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 can play an important role.”