Canadians can now share that they’re an organ donor on Facebook.
Users can add their organ and tissue donor status to their Timeline, in the Health and Wellness category. That information will be added to the newsfeed seen by friends and family, who can “like” it, comment or share their own status.
“It’s Canada’s turn,” Jordan Banks, managing director of Facebook Canada tells the Star, just before the news conference in Ottawa. Federal Minister of Health Leona Aglukkaq and double lung recipient and organ donation crusader Hélène Campbell made the official announcement Tuesday afternoon.
In May Facebook opened the tool to users in the U.S. and the U.K., and it has added 12 countries over the last few months. Canada took longer because each province operates its organ and tissue donation system differently, he says.
The tool also became available Tuesday in Mexico, Norway and Belgium.
So far 275,000 Facebook users have registered their intent to become organ donors globally.
“For us it’s incredibly exciting,” Banks says. “There are 4,500 Canadians who are on an organ transplant list and we’re excited to play a role in the importance of registering, and also of telling your friends and family that you have registered.”
The donor update includes space to write about when, where or why people decided to become an organ and tissue donor. There is also a link leading to each province’s relevant agency. In Ontario that’s www.beadonor.ca.
Just 22 per cent of Ontarians have registered their consent to be an organ donor, and only 13 per cent of the GTA has. There are 1,523 people awaiting life-saving transplants of kidneys, livers, hearts, lungs and pancreas in this province, 22 of them children.
Inspiration by someone close is a common reason for signing up, says Trillium Gift of Life Network CEO Ronnie Gavsie.
“This could go a long way to making organ donation a social norm,” she says of the Facebook announcement. “It could have a profound effect.”
The link to Ontario’s registry may prompt procrastinators, she adds. “In two minutes, you’re registered. The fact that it is so easy to do makes the social media tools more and more important.”
“The most important thing about organ donation is sharing,” Campbell, 21, says. “This gives people like me hope.” Campbell became well known to Canadians after launching an awareness campaign while awaiting her double lungs, necessary because of idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis.
Five months post-transplant, the Ottawa resident is now going to the gym, biking and getting roped into household chores. She blew up her first balloon the other day.
Campbell says fear often holds people back from registering. “We’re hoping people will do more research through this tool,” she says.
Facebook is about sharing information and those tools can address important issues and challenges in every community. “We’ve heard from medical experts, who fundamentally believe broader awareness of the organ donation issue is one of the ways of solving the problem,” Banks says.
“We think people who proclaim their choices also have pride in their choices,” Gavsie says. “And that pride is going to come across and hopefully will be contagious.”