Drug overdose deaths have an unintended benefit: more organ transplants. In fact, such donations made up more than 13 percent of all organ transplants in 2017, according to The Washington Post.
A study from the Annals of Internal Medicine revealed that 3,533 transplants from overdose victims were used in 2016 compared to 149 similar transplants in 2000. The study stated that overdose victim used to make up 1.1 percent of all donors in 2000, but made 13.4 percent last year, according to the Post.
The spike has helped lead to a record number of donor organs recovered for transplants in the four most commonly-needed areas — kidney, liver, heart, and lungs — in 2017, according to Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network records.
The newspaper reported more than 200,000 people in the United States have died from the opioid epidemic since 2000.
"The current epidemic of deaths from overdose is a tragedy," Dr. Christine Durand, assistant professor of medicine and oncology at Johns Hopkins University, who led the study, told CNN. "It would also be tragic to continue to underutilize life-saving transplants from donors.
"We have an obligation to optimize the use of all organs donated. The donors, families, and patients waiting deserve our best effort to use every gift of life we can," Durand continued.
CNN reported that researchers used data from the Scientific Registry of Transplant Recipients to compile its statistics, helping them identify more than 7,313 donors who had died from drug overdoses, resulting in nearly 20,000 transplants.
While overdose-death donors increased by 17 percent every year, donations from people who had died in traumatic injuries increased by 1.6 percent, the network stated.
The broadcaster noted that, despite the increase, the demand for lifesaving organ transplants is still dire. CNN reported as of Monday, about 114,746 people in the United States were in need of an organ transplant, but between January and March, there were only 4,109 organ donors.
"For people waiting on an organ transplant right now, I would like to think that our studies bring them hope that they could receive a transplant and have more donors that could help them," Durand told CNN.
"I also don't want to lose sight of the people who made these transplants possible: the donors and their families. In a time of greatest tragedy, they made a powerful decision to save the lives of people waiting on a transplant. That means they are generous, compassionate people. They are people I admire. They are the people who make organ donation and transplantation possible," Durand continued.
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