Facebook Throws Its Considerable Weight Behind Organ Donation

Zuck cites Steve Jobs and his girlfriend, a pediatrician in training.

 Facebook Throws Its Considerable Weight Behind Organ Donation

Using his powers for good, not evil. (Facebook.com)

That “life-saving” feature Facebook has been teasing? It’s a big push to support organ donation. Thousands die every year waiting for transplants, and–thanks to the prompting of his med-student girlfriend–Mark Zuckerberg wants to help close the gap. Users can now publicize via their timelines their decisions to become organ donors. The thinking seems to be that some combination of positive reinforcement and peer pressure will prompt more people to opt in.

Mr. Zuckerberg told ABC News,

“Facebook is really about communicating and telling stories… We think that people can really help spread awareness of organ donation and that they want to participate in this to their friends. And that can be a big part of helping solve the crisis that’s out there.”

Users who click over to the “health and wellness” section of their timeline will find an option to broadcast their status and, if they aren’t already donors, a link to register (presumably adding “hint, hint” was a little much).

In his interview with ABC, Zuck cited two inspirations in particular: Steve Jobs, whose liver transplant provided several additional years of life; and heart-wrenching stories from his girlfriend Priscilla Chan, who is in training to become a pediatrician and therefore has first-hand knowledge of the shortage and its impact. We suspect Ms. Chan is a force to be reckoned with.

The New York Times reached out to Dr. Andrew M. Cameron, Johns Hopkins Hospital’s surgical director of liver transplantation, who called today “an historic day in transplant.” He blames the current gap on the hellish location where we’re currently asked to commit:

“We have attempted to have a sensitive conversation, one that addresses your mortality, at the D.M.V.,” Dr. Cameron said. “Now we move the conversation into your own home or office with 120 of your closest friends on Facebook.”

But while the cause is certainly honorable, we can’t help but wonder whether Facebook–home of Farmville, drunken party pics, and infuriating political arguments with high school classmates–really qualifies as an appropriate venue for such a discussion.

Betabeat also notices that Mr. Zuckerberg doesn’t appear to have signed up yet, either.