Facebook has encouraged its more than 900 million users to use the social networking website as a tool to find organ donors.
The proposal, issued by top executives Mark Zuckerberg and Sheryl Sandberg, came out on Tuesday, asking potential donors to display their information on their personal pages.
"With the waiting list, that tells you there are more people out there that need organs than are willing or able to donate"
- Michael Shelling, marketing consultant
"We think that people can really help spread awareness of organ donation and that they want to participate in this to their friends, and we think that can be a big part in helping to solve the crisis," Zuckerberg told ABC-TV's "Good Morning America" programme on Tuesday.
There are currently 92,102 people in the United States waiting for a donor kidney, the organ that is in greatest demand, according to the Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network.
Last year, only 28,535 kidney transplants took place, with the majority of those donated from deceased donors.
That disparity leaves many waiting in line for a donor organ to become available, a process that can take three or four years, said Joel Newman, a spokesperson for the United Network for Organ Sharing.
In many cases, people simply do not think about becoming an organ donor, Newman said. He hopes Zuckerberg's call to have people add their donor status to their Facebook Timeline will increase awareness of the need for organ donors.
"Organ donation is generally something many people think is a wonderful thing, but many people just haven't made that decision," Newman said.
Surveys show that as many as 90 per cent of Americans support organ donation, but only about one-third of the 200 million licensed drivers in the US actually tick the box indicating consent to being an organ donor.
In the US, a person dies waiting for a transplant every four hours. While the need for organ donation continues to rise, donation rates have been nearly flat for the past 20 years.
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