Can Facebook Solve the Organ Donor Crisis?
“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… (Facebook) can be a big part of helping solve the crisis out there.”—Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, May 1, 2012
Facebook is officially in the business of organ donation. Since the social media giant’s CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced a new feature that will allow users in the U.K., U.S. and Australia to list their organ donor status, there have been reports of real-life donor surges. In the U.S., on the day of the announcement, more than 100,000 people declared on Facebook that they had decided to be organ donors, and some 22,000 followed a link on the site that connects to online donor registries. The response, said the chief executive of Donate Life America, “dwarfs any past organ donation initiative.”
Though the feature is not available to Canadian Facebookers right now, the news reportedly caused a spike here, too. Of course, we don’t yet know whether Facebook will have a lasting impact on donation rates, or whether announcing one’s donor status will lead to an actual increase in donations over time. Still, the phenomenon raised one perennial question: How do you actually get people to donate?
Opt-in versus opt-out regimes
Canada has relied on altruism for organ donations (i.e. you need to opt-in if you wish to donate), but other places nudge people into donating by asking them to actively “opt out” if they don’t want to. The practice is known as “presumed consent.” Some say this approach is the answer to organ shortages, since having donation as the default option would, logically, yield more donations than waiting for people to opt in.