Facebook Organ Donor Initiative Highly Successful
June 18, 2013

Facebook Organ Donor Initiative Sets Record Rates For New Donors

Michael Harper for redOrbit.com — Your Universe Online

An online service which boasts over one billion users and brings together people from all over the world to one central location can´t simply exist without leaving some lasting impact on humanity. As such, many studies have been conducted to understand the so called “Facebook Effect” and analyze the ramifications of the monolithic social network on our society and our personalities.

While previous studies have found the social network can leave users feeling both good and bad about themselves, researchers recently reported Facebook can also make users more generous with their internal organs. A new study by the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine found when users were allowed to broadcast their organ donor status, new donor registration increased 21-fold. These results are published in the American Journal of Transplantation.

“The short-term response was incredibly dramatic, unlike anything we had ever seen before in campaigns to increase the organ donation rate. And at the end of two weeks, the number of new organ donors was still climbing at twice the normal rate,” said Andrew M. Cameron, an associate professor of surgery at the university in a statement.

“If we can harness that excitement in the long term, then we can really start to move the needle on the big picture. The need for donor organs vastly outpaces the available supply and this could be a way to change that equation.”

Last May, Facebook announced a new initiative which allowed users to tell their online circles if they were registered donors. CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced the feature as a way to encourage Facebookers to consider donating their organs on to those who need them when they´ve passed. Users could register to become a donor right from the social site and even share their status once registration was complete.

Dr. Cameron and his colleagues studied the effect this stripped down, sign up process had on new donor registration and were overjoyed with the results. Doctors and health professionals have tried for many years to encourage people to become organ donors, but they´ve never seen the kind of windfall increase in donor rates that came as a result of Facebook´s initiative.

On May 1, 2012, the first day organ donor registration began on Facebook, 57,451 people updated their profiles to reveal their donor status. Of these individuals, over 13,000 became brand new donors that same day. Before the launch of the initiative, the daily national average of new donor registration rested at about 616. Cameron specifically points out the state of Michigan, which saw a seven-fold increase in donor registration on May 1 alone. Other states with statistically low donor registrations, such as New York and Texas, were also praised for significant increases on the first day of the Facebook initiative.

Like any other movement online, the numbers of new registrants began to drop after only 12 days, but Cameron says the rates are higher than they had been before Facebook got involved.

“The half-life of a movement online is often just hours,” said Dr. Cameron. “This had a very powerful, lasting effect. But we need to find a way to keep the conversation going.”

Between five and ten thousand people die every year with organs which would have been suitable for transplant. By contrast, some 118,000 Americans die every year waiting for kidneys, livers and other organs which could save their lives.