Facebook allows users to show their support for organ donation
Published May 1 2012, 15:05 BST
By Andrew Laughlin
The NHS's Blood and Transplant unit has today announced a collaboration with Facebook
that will enable users of the social network to flag up their support for organ donation.
Tapping into the "power of sharing", the NHSBT hopes that the initiative will encourage more people to join the Organ Donor Register. More than 30m Brits are signed up to Facebook.
From today, a new health and wellbeing button has been added to the Facebook Timeline, allowing users to flag up that they have signed up to become an organ donor, or intend to do so.
People can already register to become an organ donor at the NHSBT Facebook page, but this new initiative means they can more widely share their support for the scheme.
Studies have indicated that only 50% of those who agree to donate organs after their death let their families know. However, relatives who know of other people's desire to donate are said to be 50% more likely to sign up themselves.
NHSBT said that each consent given for organ donation can "save or improve the lives of up to nine people". Currently, around 10,000 people are in need of a transplant in the UK, although three people die waiting every day.
"We need more people to sign up to the register and share their wishes with their friends and family, our job is to make that as quick and easy as possible," said Sally Johnson, NHSBT's director of organ donation and transplantation.
"This is an exciting new way to use the power of social media to reach a huge audience and encourage people to think about it, act and share that information."
Facebook's UK director of policy Simon Milner added: "Small acts of kindness happen every day on Facebook, but we hope that our partnership with NHS Blood and Transplant will use the power of friendship to save lives.
"More than 30 million people in the UK will be able to show on their Timeline that they are either on the organ donation register already, or can register with the NHS on their Facebook page in a few simple steps.
"We hope that as a result of this partnership, UK Facebook users will together be able to reduce the number of people who needlessly die waiting for an organ each year."
Alongside the collaboration with NHSBT in Britain, Facebook has launched a similar initiative for its users in the US.
In a joint blog post, Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg
and chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg said that millions of people around the world need heart, kidney or liver transplants that will save their lives, but an average of 18 die a day waiting for a donor.
They said that medical experts note that broader awareness about organ donation could "go a long way toward solving this crisis", which is where Facebook comes in.
"Starting today, you can add that you're an organ donor to your timeline, and share your story about when, where or why you decided to become a donor," said Zuckerberg and Sandberg.
"If you're not already registered with your state or national registry and want to be, you'll find a link to the official donor registry there as well.
"Facebook's mission is simple: to make the world more open and connected. But the Facebook community has also shown us that simply through sharing and connecting, the world gets smaller and better.
"Even one individual can have an outsized impact on the challenges facing another, and on the world. At Facebook, we call that the power of friends."