Inside the Gift of Life Donor Program’s headquarters in Philadelphia is a room that serves as a sort of mission control for organ donation. Three rows of desks face a huge screen that displays records of potential organ and tissue donors. Workers manning the phones get a call every time someone dies in a hospital.
“These guys are the hub of the wheel,” said Howard Nathan, Gift of Life’s president and CEO. “They get the referral from the donor hospital, they separate the patients who are potential organ donors, and notify our coordinator on call. We have 15 people on call per day in three states that go out to the hospital.”
Gift of Life is the federally designated organ procurement organization in a territory that covers 11.2 million people in Eastern Pennsylvania, South Jersey, and Delaware. It receives 38,000 calls per year, which are increasingly reporting deaths from drug overdoses, Nathan said.
“Ten years ago, only about 4 percent of organ donors were from drug overdose,” he said. “In 2017, it’s 27 percent of our organ donors.”
The epidemic of opioid overdose continues to claim more lives, with officials estimating that the number of deaths increased by 300 last year in Philadelphia alone. But many whose lives are cut short by drug overdoses are helping extend other lives as organ donors. They’re making up a larger share than ever of those who make a lifesaving gift after death.
Read the full article about organ donations and opioid deaths by Joel Wolfram at whyy.org.
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