Organ Donation in the Age of Social Networking

Wednesday, May 02, 2012

Facebook has experimented with a lot of new and questionable plans over the years, from their controversial default privacy settings to their timeline layout, which some users love, and others hate. But it seems no plan is as unusual as their new one, launched yesterday.

In short, the plan encourages everyone on Facebook to advertise their donor status on their pages, along with their birth dates and schools. Their goal: to encourage more people to become registered organ donors through the power of peer pressure.

Could the plan be the best thing to happen to organ donation? Or a slippery slope linking medical information and social media? Jeff Jarvis is professor of journalism at City University of New York and author of the book “Public Parts.” Art Caplan is a professor of bioethics at the University of Pennsylvania. 


Dr. Art Caplan and Jeff Jarvis

Produced by:

Kristen Meinzer

Comments [4]


Only one person needs to know my organ donor status: the doctor standing next to my mostly-dead body at the hospital. And I doubt s/he's going to be reading my Facebook.

Next they're going to ask me to post which charities I give to and how much, how many old ladies I've helped across the street today, and what date I filed my taxes. No thanks.

May. 02 2012 10:29 AM
Leah from Pennsylvania

As a public health professional, I believe that the new Facebook organ donation status could offer tremendous benefits to the organ donor registry. The tool is focused on action (e.g., it links people directly to registries to sign up). However, I have some concerns regarding how the tool may encourage sign-ups (i.e., peer pressure). I also have ongoing concerns regarding how Facebook is securing and using personal information from users. I explored this issue in detail on my blog Pop Health yesterday ( I'd love to get some feedback on the post from your readers/listeners!

May. 02 2012 10:16 AM

I find it amazing Art Caplan who would never propose shaming people into adopting a healthy lifestyle agrees with publicly shaming people into becoming organ donors.

This is just another example of creeping, creepy virtual fascist state Facebook invading privacy for corporate interests.

More amazing is how many voluntary 1984 lemmings and sheeple are so willing to lock step to Zuckerbergs self serving, profit driven drumbeat.

May. 02 2012 10:13 AM
Lynn from New Jersey USA

I believe organ donation is a tremendous self-less gift of life. I do not think it is a good idea to advertise one's organ donor status, birth date and school that one is attending on Facebook.

To advertise on Facebook as to the location of where to find and possibly harvest "black market" organs is ludicrous. Facebook has good intentions to network possible organ donors, although this avenue is not a secure means.

When a tragedy occurs and the opportunity presents itself for an organ donation, it becomes a challenge,since people don't always have their organ donor card on them and relatives don't always know that a person has opted to be a donor. The need for networking does exist. The question is "What exactly is the safest method to advertise that a person wish to donate their organs?"

May. 02 2012 08:53 AM

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