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Death From Drug Overdoses Can Lead to Longer Lives

October 10, 2016
Plain English Version

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Deaths from drug overdoses are rising in the United States. This brings heartbreak to families. It can also bring good news to patients who are waiting for organ transplants.

That is the unplanned result of deaths from legal and illegal drugs. Many of those who die are young. Doctors can use several different organs from each person. Doctors harvest about three organs from each donor.

Three things have come together. More people are dying from overdoses than ever before. That is, more than from car crashes. Also, people are living longer. The number of people needing transplants is increasing.

Many of those who die have already said that they want to donate their organs. They do this on their driver’s licenses. Often, the parents of younger victims donate their organs. It helps them deal with the death. One parent said, “Finding out that with his death someone else could benefit was such a joy.”

Dying from an overdose does not affect kidney function or other organs. Doctors flush the drugs and blood from the organs when removing them from the body.

Medical advances now allow more organs to come from people who have diseases. For example, doctors can now use the organs of people who have H.I.V. or Hepatitis C.

Better treatment after the transplant takes place also improves chances of success. Many patients are running out of time. They are more likely to risk an organ coming from a person with these conditions.

One patient said, “When you have a terminal disease, you look at things differently. I thought, if it gives me five to 10 more years, that’s more than I would have had.”

Source: The New York Times October 6, 2016

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