In New England this year, 69 people who died of overdose, who were organ donors, helped 202 other people in need of transplants, according to a recent New York Times article. It’s being called an unexpected silver lining to a dire situation.
A Behavioral Healthcare analysis of public data confirms that organ donation is on the rise, and people who die from drug intoxication are a growing donor category. In 2001, there were fewer than 100 donors in the category, but by 2015, the number had surged to more than 800.
According to the Times, it’s the fastest growing donor type.
Although intravenous drug users are at higher risk for HIV/AIDS and hepatitis C, today’s rigorous screening practices by transplant teams can greatly reduce the chances of harvesting an organ that would carry such viruses. In most cases, patients waiting on transplant lists are facing a terminal prognosis and are willing to accept a degree of potential risk. Nationally, about 120,000 people remain on the wait list for transplants.
Ethical rules dictate that recipients must be informed if a donor organ is high risk, and the patient can refuse the transplant.