Facebook in organ donation push

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Media captionPhilip Barton explains how his son's transplant prompted him to use Facebook to raise awareness about organ donation

The NHS and social networking site Facebook have joined forces in an attempt to increase the number of organs being donated.

People will be able to register as an organ donor through the website and share their intentions with family and friends.

Three people die every day while waiting for a transplant, NHS says.

NHS Blood and Transplant said the partnership was an "exciting new way" to encourage donation.

Around 10,000 people in the UK are on the waiting list for an organ.

'Life event'

The NHS said only half of registered organ donors told their families that they wanted to donate their organs after death.

If somebody is on the register then legally the organs can be used for transplantation. However, organs are not taken if the family is too upset by the prospect. The NHS said relatives who knew the person's wishes were far more likely to consent.

People can now say they are an organ donor as part of their "Facebook Timeline".

It is marked as one of their life events alongside getting married, having a new job or moving home.

It will also mean people can register to become an organ donor through the NHS's own pages on the social networking site.

Inspired by friends

Simon Milner, the UK policy director at Facebook, told the BBC: "This is about making it easier for families in that highly emotional time as somebody dies, that they know this person is a register organ donor.

"The second thing is to encourage people who may have thought about it in the past, but have just not got round to it or who might be inspired by finding out that 10 of their friends are organ donors, or 100 of their friends are organ donors, that they want to do it too.

"We think there'll be a double benefit from this."

NHS Blood and Transplant's director of organ donation and transplantation, Sally Johnson, said Facebook was a "fantastic way" of getting families to talk about organ donation now instead of at "the worst possible time".

She said: "We need more people to sign up to the register and share their wishes with their friends and family, our job is to make that as quick and easy as possible.

"This is an exciting new way to use the power of social media to reach a huge audience and encourage people to think about it, act, and share that information."

Initially, similar partnerships will be launched in the US, Australia and the Netherlands. Facebook then hopes to widen the scheme to other countries.

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