Facebook users urged to donate organs

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has launched an organ donation initiative that makes it easier to share from the heart — or lungs, or kidneys.

Ottawa's Hélène Campbell calls Zuckerberg project 'amazing news'

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has launched a new project that aims to boost the number of organ donors. (Marcio Jose Sanchez/Associated Press)

Facebook's new organ donation initiative hopes to inspire users to share what's inside of them on a whole new level.

CEO Mark Zuckerberg, who launched the campaign on ABC's Good Morning America on Tuesday, said the program should make it easier for interested people to register and to encourage their friends to do the same.

"Starting today, you can add that you're an organ donor to your timeline, and share your story about when, where or why you decided to become a donor," Zuckerberg said in a statement.

"Even one individual can have an outsized impact on the challenges facing another, and on the world."

Users in the U.S. and the U.K. will be able to sign up for their local registries and call attention to their pledge on the social networking site. Those who are already registered can also highlight their commitment.

Zuckerberg is championing the cause partly because his late friend Apple Inc. co-founder Steve Jobs was a liver transplant recipient. His wife, Priscilla Chan, who is completing her medical residency, also helped inspire the project.

"This is an important event in people's lives, and we want to make it simple," he said in the ABC interview. "We can be a big part of helping solve the crisis out there."

Canadian tap power of web for organ campaigns

Right now, about 4500 Canadians are on waiting lists for organ donations, and donor registration rates vary across Canada.

Every province has its own ways of handling organ registries, but many have turned to the internet and social media to reach out to potential donors.

Just under a week ago, Alberta Health Services hosted an hour-long discussion on Twitter where participants could ask questions about organ donations and receive answers in real time from a transplant surgeon.

"Donation has been a bit of a challenge for us in Canada," said Dr. Norman Kneteman.

"It's been relatively stagnant for a few years, and in fact in Alberta it's been falling for the last several years," he said.

"Because of that, we now are in the unfortunate situation of having about one person in five who gets listed for a transplant who in fact dies before they have the opportunity to go forward with the transplant."

Currently there are 786 Albertans waiting for organ or tissue transplants.

Meanwhile, in Manitoba, thousands are registering with an online organ donor database launched last week.

Sign Up for Life has attracted over 3,200 registered users since it went online on April 23, according to health officials working on the website.

Organ donation efforts recently received another boost from Hélène Campbell, a young Ottawa woman who gained fame for her internet-based campaign that won the approval of celebrities like Ellen DeGeneres and Justin Bieber.

She recently underwent a successful double lung transplant. Many Canadians are following her recovery on her website, alungstory.ca and on Twitter @alungstory.

Campbell was among those who reacted to Facebook's new campaign, tweeting, "Guys! This is amazing news! Couldn't have come at a better time, with all this awareness!"

With files from the Associated Press