Facebook said it plans to offer the feature first in the United States, where it has 161 million members, and in Britain, where it has about 30 million members, The New York Times reported. Other countries are to be added in coming months on the social networking site with about 900 million members worldwide.
The feature will enable members to declare and update their organ-donor status, which will appear with other biographical information in a Health and Wellness section, and include links to state online donor registries. People can change their official donor status on such registries or by going to the local motor vehicle department.
The Facebook feature will not carry the legal weight of the traditional registries but experts say it could provide an alternative that could lead to more organ donations.
Dr. Andrew M. Cameron, the surgical director of liver transplantation at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, said the Facebook organ-donor status could serve as evidence family members need when deciding whether to donate organs of a loved one.
"This is going to be an historic day in transplant," said Cameron, who noted people who die for lack of an organ do so mostly because of a shortage of organ donors.
"The math will radically change, and we may well eliminate the problem," he said.
With the Facebook feature, Cameron said, millions of people could quickly change their donation status.
Fewer than half of U.S. adults have registered to become organ donors.
Between 6,000 and 7,000 people die in the United States each year while waiting for organs, the Times said.
The federal government's Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network said 114,000 people are now waiting for organ transplants.
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