Saving Lives Via Social Media

May 1, 2012

Times They Are a-Changin’! These immortal words written and performed by Bob Dylan in 1964 continue to echo through our world today. Perhaps it is nowhere more present than in the world of social media in the manner of altering the way we share our personal choices, particularly when it comes to topics of health.

It is unlikely in 1968 when The Uniform Anatomical Gift Act (UAGA) provided the legal standing for organ transplantation, that people might have imagined there would someday be a national computer registry of donated organs, but that is exactly what happened in 1984 through the National Organ Transplant Act (NOTA). Eventually, states began to offer an individual the option to list “organ donor” as a status on their driver’s license; a private and personal choice declaring that if something were to happen to that person, their organs could be transplanted if determined usable.

Today, Facebook announced to its 800 million users around the world the opportunity to share their organ donor status on their Facebook timeline. Why offer this option to publicly display a choice that was hidden away in wallets for so many years? According to the Facebook announcement, “Today, more than 114,000 people in the United States, and millions more around the globe, are waiting for the heart, kidney or liver transplant that will save their lives. Many of those people – an average of 18 people per day – will die waiting, because there simply aren’t enough organ donors to meet the need.”

Facebook has been used as a tool that not only reconnects you with the friends you haven’t seen since your ten year reunion, but is establishing itself as a vehicle for social change; one that allows you to let your network know that you are registered as an organ donor. The power of transmitting your once-private choice to be an organ donor, has suddenly become a public affair and an opportunity to really save lives. If people are willing to share their sniffles and sore throat symptoms on Facebook, I imagine they will clamor to display their choice to become an organ donor now that they have the option. I know I will.

Sultana F. Ali is an Account Supervisor at Ketchum, holds an accreditation in Public Relations, and has a Master’s Degree in Strategic Public Relations from The George Washington University. She is passionate about global issues and a self-proclaimed do-gooder, volunteering her time on nonprofit boards and tweeting inspiration from Twitter @globalsultana. When she isn’t attending White House Tweetups, she runs trail races and plans global hiking expeditions (next up, Kilimanjaro!)