Organ donations on the rise due to opioid epidemic

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FLINT (WJRT) (3/7/2018) - Doctors are seeing a spike in organ donations in Michigan and nationwide.

Photo: OIGatHHS / youtube

A Hurley Medical Center doctor says as a Gift of Life Hospital - it's always been a struggle in organ donations.

He says often people who die from overdoses have healthy organs that can do good for someone in need.

There's not a day that goes by, I've already done it once today, where we are waking somebody up from an opioid overdose,” Hurley Medical Center Dr. Jim Weber said.

Weber has saved a lot of people who've overdosed.

"I have not ever seen it this bad in the now 27 years I have been practicing,” He told ABC 12.

Now he's noticing a state and national trend in those who have died from an overdose--their organs are being donated.

"I would sure like to see it for reasons other than people having to die over it because of opioids," Weber said.

According to the Gift of Life Michigan, there were 320 donors in 2017, an increase of 26 percent from the 254 in 2014.

More than 50 of last year's donors died by drug overdose; this is an increase from 20 in 2014.

Like any other donation, these organs go through the procedure before being passed on.

"Making sure the organ is completely functional and obviously rigorous testing for communicable diseases particularly hepatitis and HIV,” he said.

Weber says the most desired organs are the heart and kidneys.

Knowing there's a need there, Weber signed up to be an organ donor himself.

"Obviously in a perfect case scenario, we would like to get people to be willing to donate organs under normalcy and normal circumstances,” Weber said.

The C-D-C says emergency room visits for suspected opioid overdoses jumped by roughly 30 percent between June 20-16 and September 20-17

The largest surge was in the Midwest, which saw an increase of 70 percent.