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Potential Impact of Facebook's Organ Donor Option

A new option could make a major difference for those in need.

Likes/dislikes?  Favorite music? Organ donor status?

This week Facebook announced an initiative, which, if successful, could have a major impact upon the availability of organs for the 113,000 Americans currently waiting for organ transplants. The company will offer its 900 million users the ability to indicate on their profile whether or not they would want to be an organ donor.

It is hoped that the public discourse arising from this plan will lead to a greater awareness of the need for organs and more discussion among families regarding personal choices. Although many states use motor vehicle registration or licensing as a venue to encourage donation, the Facebook option may be a real game changer, with theoretically millions of people declaring their donor status overnight.

The plan is to include an organ donor status entry in a Facebook section called Health and Wellness, which will be linked to more traditional online state registries. A Facebook entry may be used as evidence of a patient’s donor status preference if they have not discussed the issue with their family or doctor.

With medical science now having the ability to transplant hearts, lungs, kidneys and other organs, one donor can save up to eight lives, as well improve the lives of 50 more people by donating tissues and corneas. Of the 113,000 Americans on transplant lists, 8,000 live in the New York metropolitan area. On average, 18 people on the waiting lists die each day while waiting to become recipients.

Currently, only 18 percent of New Yorkers age 18 and over have registered as donors; nationwide the average is 42 percent.  It is important to realize that during an acute illness, doctors will follow your wishes for care and treatment; donation itself only takes place after death has occurred, and has been confirmed by a physician not associated with the donation process.

Transplant “lists” determine the priority for who gets available organs. The order is determined by medical standards, including severity of illness, time spent on the waiting list and blood type. There is no consideration of celebrity status or “political connectiveness”.

The rate of success of organ donation has steadily climbed and is now between 80 and 90 percent. The organ procurement process is a medical procedure, done by experienced surgeons in a sterile, surgical environment. The donor’s body is treated with total respect and there is no disfigurement; open casket services are possible.

All major religions support organ donation; speak with your spiritual leader if you have questions. For more information on organ donation, please visit this website.

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