09/18/2012 05:19 EDT | Updated 11/18/2012 05:12 EST

Facebook Canada Organ Donation: Site Launches Tool With Helene Campbell's Help


OTTAWA - An organ donation campaign started by a feisty young Ottawa double-lung transplant recipient now has new friends — a lot of them.

Facebook is hoping its organ donation tool, which allows users to share their status as organ donors, will help Helene Campbell foster awareness of the cause.

Campbell, whose social media organ donation campaign caught the attention of celebrities including Ellen DeGeneres and Justin Bieber, says she's excited by the attention Facebook can bring to the cause.

"The most important thing when it comes to organ donation is sharing, and that's what Facebook is all about," a beaming Campbell told a news conference Tuesday.

"It's about sharing, it's about letting others know what's going on in your life and what's important to you," she added.

"With this organ donation registry online, that is the perfect platform for families, friends, anyone you care about, really, to let others know that this is the decision they've made."

The social media company launched the feature in May in the United States and the U.K., and is now bringing it to Canada.

Since its inception four months ago, the tool has been launched in 12 other countries, and Facebook credits it with attracting 275,000 more people to become donors.

It took until now to launch it in Canada because organ donation falls under provincial and territorial jurisdiction, said Facebook Canada managing director Jordan Banks.

"We have ... 13 jurisdictional considerations in Canada, it's not a federal registry," he said.

"So the logistics of just making sure all of the i's were dotted and t's were crossed took us until September to launch it."

The tool is located on Facebook Timeline's "Life Event" tab, under Health and Wellness. It allows people to post whether they are willing to be an organ donor, but also allows them to register to donate if they haven’t already.

And, like most other Facebook applications, anyone posting their donor status will be able to make the information fully public, or limit access to friends, family or others.

British Columbia's agency responsible for organ donation welcomed Facebook's move, hoping it will increase the number of people who register to become organ donors.

More than 85 per cent of British Columbians agree with organ donation yet only 18 per cent have registered to be donors, said Dr. Greg Grant, provincial director of BC Transplant.

"When it first launched in the U.S. the impact was significant," said Grant.

"We definitely ‘like’ this idea."

BC Transplant said approximately 450 people in that province are waiting for a life-saving transplant.

Federal Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq, who attended the news conference where the Facebook tool was launched, was unable to say how many people have registered to become organ donors in Canada.

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