By MIKE STOBBE
AP Medical Writer
ATLANTA (AP) — Thousands of Facebook users have signed up to be organ donors this week, thanks to a new feature on the social networking site that makes it easier to register.
The new option was announced Tuesday by Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg as a way to boost the number of potential organ donors. By the end of the day, 6,000 people had enrolled through 22 state registries, according to Donate Life America, which promotes donations and is working with Facebook. On a normal day, those states together see less than 400 sign up.
The response "dwarfs any past organ donation initiative," said David Fleming, chief executive of Donate Life America, in a statement.
The Facebook feature allows users to share their decision to be an organ donor on the website. More than 100,000 did that by Tuesday night, according to Facebook, which is working with Fleming's group to encourage Facebook users to also officially register as donors with their state.
A link on the site connects to online donor registries. At least 22,000 people had followed that link as of Wednesday afternoon. Information from 22 states indicates that a third or more of them filled out the form to register, said Donate Life America spokeswoman Aisha Michel.
California — where Facebook is headquartered — reported startling results. About 70 people register online as organ donors each day. But in the 24 hours after Zuckerberg's announcement, about 3,900 signed up.
"We're just thankful we have this opportunity to bring more people into the process," said Bryan Stewart, a spokesman for OneLegacy, which coordinates transplants in the Los Angeles area.
"We're looking foreep the organs viable. Less than 1 percent of U.S. deaths annually are under such circumstances. And sometimes the opportunity is lost because family members didn't know about the person's wishes on organ donation.
The Facebook feature "is a unique opportunity for people to make their decision known," UNOS Executive Director Walter Graham, said on a statement.
Most people register as organ donors when they get a driver's licenses, but about 2 percent sign up through online registries. Both represent legal consent for adults. For children who want to be donors, parental consent is still required.