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Apple is urging US iPhone owners to become organ donors

Ananya Bhattacharya
By Ananya Bhattacharya

Tech reporter

Years after watching Apple co-founder Steve Jobs’ experience getting a liver transplant, CEO Tim Cook wants to help reduce the organ donor shortage in the US.

With the iOS 10 update this fall, the Cupertino, California, company will integrate an easy sign-up button within its health information iPhone app that will give users the option to register to be organ, eye, and tissue donors with Donate Life, a non-profit organization. All registrations submitted through an iPhone are sent directly to the National Donate Life Registry managed by Donate Life America, Apple wrote on its website.

The health app already allows users to display a Medical ID of sorts. After signing up for the donor registry, users will be able to show their organ donor status on this optional “emergency information” display that can be seen on a locked iPhone.

“Watching and seeing [Jobs] every day, waiting and not knowing—it stuck with me and left an impression that I’ll never forget,” Cook told the Associated Press. Cook offered to donate part of his own liver to his boss, but Jobs refused.

During his pancreatic cancer treatment, Jobs underwent a liver transplant in Tennessee in 2009. After doctors advised him that he wouldn’t live long enough to get through California’s lengthy registry, Jobs turned to the Volunteer State. Unlike Jobs, most people can’t afford to travel outside their home state to improve their odds of getting a new organ. In 2010, Jobs lobbied for a California law to encourage more people to register as donors. “As a transplant recipient, I know how precious this gift of life is,” Jobs said at the signing of the legislation to create the nation’s first living donor registry for kidney transplants.

The need for organ donors has far outpaced their sign up rate. Over 120,000 people are waiting for organ donations today and an average of 22 people die each day because of the shortage of organ donors in the US, according to the US Department of Health and Human Services. With the new software update, donation advocates are hoping young adults will be more inclined to sign up.

Cook told the AP that he hopes the iPhone app will bring “a substantial increase” in registrations, which in turn should “save lives and save people from that excruciating wait and wondering what’s going to happen.”

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