Facebook to encourage organ donation

Clive Gee/PA

Facebook has launched a new feature this week to encourage users to sign up to donate their organs.

The social network hopes the initiative will encourage its 30 million members to consider joining the organ donation register if they see that some of their friends have.

Official figures reveal around 10,000 people in the UK are on the waiting list for an organ and three Britons die every day while waiting for a transplant. Each individual organ donor can help up to nine other people.

Facebook has teamed up with NHS Blood and Transplant to create a 'Health and Wellbeing' button which will allow users to publicise that they have registered as an organ donor, or to sign up to become one.

Life event
The NHS said only half of registered organ donors told their families about their desire to donate their organs after death.

While it is legal for the organs of registered donors to be used for transplantation, they may not be taken if the family is too traumatised by the idea. The NHS said relatives who knew the person's wishes were far more likely to consent.

The new Facebook initiative encourages donors to add a 'Life Event' to their Facebook timeline when they sign up to the register – in the same way as users can mark events such as getting married, having a new job or moving home

It will also mean people can register to become an organ donor through the NHS's own pages on the social networking site. Users can find the page by searching 'NHS Organ Donation' on Facebook and join by clicking the 'Register here' button.

Inspire friends
It is hoped that allowing users to publicise when they have signed up to become an organ donor will encourage their friends to consider joining the register too.

Organisers of the new Health and Wellbeing button said: "We hope this new feature will help Facebook users in the UK to use the power of friendship to save lives."

One person thankful for the new feature is Andrea Hulley, a bank branch manager from Tamworth, Staffordshire, who has been awaiting a kidney transplant for nearly 18 months.

"It is a fantastic idea to raise awareness and give people the opportunity to join the register who may never thought about it before. I'm so grateful for this," said Andrea, 29. "I really hope the popularity of Facebook will lead to more people signing up to become donors and significantly increase the number of lives saved."

Similar initiatives will be launched in the US, Australia and the Netherlands and Facebook then hopes to widen the scheme to other countries.

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