NJ overdose victims providing organs, but still not enough (Opinion)
This is a difficult silver lining to think about. The surge in overdose deaths from the opioid crisis has led to an uptick in organ transplants. Yes, due to the more than 3,000 people per year now dying from drug overdoses in New Jersey, more people are being saved by organ transplants. That's because organs from overdosed donors went from practically 0 in 2000 to 26% by 2016.
Would you worry about receiving an organ from a drug user? It's not unkind. Organs compromised due to things like Hepatitis C are a real concern. But a study from the Annals of Internal Medicine concluded the following:
In the United States, transplantation with ODD organs has increased dramatically, with noninferior outcomes in transplant recipients. Concerns about IRD behaviors and hepatitis C among donors lead to excess discard that should be minimized given the current organ shortage.
So with all the stringent safeguards it's being done without compromising recipient health, and in fact if anything they concluded we're being almost too stringent.
While this is somewhat good news, the bad news is it still is not enough. The organ waiting list is growing longer due to the aging Baby Boomer population. The increase in organs due to the tragic opioid epidemic is still outpaced by the need.
It all makes me wonder if we should do something many would consider taboo. Other nations have a legal assumption that everyone is an organ donor and you must opt out if you don't want to be rather than opt in if you do. What if we did something so drastic as to make organ donation mandatory without even an opt out? I know, it's governmental grave robbing, it's sacrilegious, all the obvious objections.
But consider, how much do we truly own our bodies as is? When you have an appendix or a cyst removed, try asking the surgeon if you may keep it and bring it home. The answer today is always no; it's medical waste, it's a biohazard. When you die and want to be buried, we already have laws that say you must be embalmed and that it must be done a certain way, and that you cannot legally have your body just tossed in the woods to return to nature even if that's what you choose to do. There was a Six Feet Under episode about this once.
Should we own our bodies after death to be locked in underground vaults only to decompose? We are throwing away organs that can save lives. Scientifically speaking, and practically speaking, it's ridiculous. It's absurd. If organ donation were mandatory there wouldn't be thousands of people dying as waiting lists fail them. It only makes sense. Will it ever happen? No. The conventions within themselves that people would have to challenge would be too much for them, and the ultra-religious would object and cleave to impracticality.
At the very least we should do what nations like Austria, Spain and Belgium do; have presumed consent with limited opt-out systems.
More from New Jersey 101.5