Facebook launches organ donation feature

Facebook on Tuesday announced an initiative to inspire members of the social network to post their organ donor status, offering a new Health and Wellness section.

Facebook CEO and founder Mark Zuckerberg talked about thenew featurein an interview with the “Good Morning America” television show, notingthat the idea for the new set of tools arose when people in disasterareas used Facebook to communicate.

“Just recently when tornados came through Missouri a lot of people wereusing Facebook to organize and return items that were lost,” Zuckerbergtold Robin Roberts on Good Morning America, in a pretaped segment.

Zuckerberg also mentioned that in the wake of the tragic Japaneseearthquake in March 2011, Facebook was used to help peoplefind familymembers.

“So we figured, OK, can we help people do anything that would solveother types of issues, like all of the people who need organdonations,” Zuckerberg said.

The Facebook initiative calls formembers to announce as well as updatetheir organ donation status. The donor status will show up along withother data in a Healthand Wellness section, which can also include other heathinformation.

This feature will also offer links to state online donorregistries, where people can change their donor status.

Asked whether his friendship with Steve Jobs, who had received akidneytransplant and died last year of pancreatic cancer, had figured intohis thinking, Zuckerberg said the Apple founder had been in mind.

“He was a friend and as we were thinking through this I definitelythink it was something we all had in mind,” Zuckerberg said.

Long transplant waiting lists
More than 100,000 people in the U.S. are on lists waiting for organtransplants, and 18 people in the country die every day because theyhave not received organs in time, according to the ABC report.

“Even if this doesn’t touch everyone I hope it can make an impact,”Zuckerberg said.

Zuckerberg said his girlfriend, Priscilla Chan, who is training to be apediatrician, encouraged the initiative.

Facebook is offering the new feature in the U.S. and U.K., andhas plans to roll it out to other countries.

The television interview Tuesday morning included onebusiness-oriented question, about Facebook’s upcoming initial publicoffering. Noting that Zuckerberg has avoided talking aboutthecompany’s business performance while it has been private, Roberts askedhow its new status will affect his penchant for reticence on thefinancial front, and how the change will impact the company culture.

“When you are public there are rules for how you report stuff so we’lljust do that, but the focus of what we do here is not going to change,our goal and the thing we’re going to do is to build great things,”Zuckerberg said.

This is not the first time that Facebook has made a foray into publicservice. In December, the company launched Lifeline, designed to letpeople alert Facebook about possible attempts at suicide. Facebook alsoannounced in March an effort to help curb cyberbullying, offering atool for reporting incidents of intimidation and pressure.

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