B.C. transplant specialist says drug overdose organ donors on the rise

B.C. transplant specialist says drug overdose organ donors on the rise

The Canadian Transplant Society said it makes no difference to transplant recipients if an organ comes from someone killed by drug overdose.

There has been a spike in the proportion of organs coming from donors who have died of drug overdoses in British Columbia, says a leading transplant specialists.

Dr. David Landsberg, head of the province’s renal transplant program, said 25 per cent of the deceased donors that have come into the program so far in 2017 were the result of overdoses.

“Unfortunately, always when there is a donation there’s been a tragedy,” Landsberg said. “But for patients who have been in desperate need of transplants, it’s been a blessing.”

B.C.’s chief medical officer declared a state of emergency 10 months ago over the number of overdose deaths.

The crisis saw 914 people die in the province last year from illicit drugs, a significant portion of which were linked to the deadly opioid fentanyl. F

RELATED: 116 people die from overdoses in January

The crisis has played a role the number of organs donated for transplant, Landsberg said, though part of that growth can also be attributed to improvements in transplant co-ordination and outreach.

All organs are tested for diseases but recipients are still advised when an organ comes from someone who engaged in “high-risk” behaviour, he added.

“Previously we would have shied away from accepting that type of donor because of concerns about disease transmission,” Landsberg said.

“We are equally as concerned today as we were a couple years ago, but we have better systems in place to make sure that there is no active disease, and then to be able to offer it to people in a way which is safe.”

James Breckenridge, head of the Canadian Transplant Society, said it makes no difference to transplant recipients if an organ comes from someone killed by a drug overdose.

“If you were dying and you were told you had 48 hours to live and here’s a guy who smoked crack, would you take his liver, as long as they told you it was healthy? Of course you would,” he said.

Between 2013 and 2016, donors who tested positive for drugs when they died grew from about seven per cent to 22 per cent. These included all drugs, not just fentanyl, and do not mean the donor died from a drug overdose.

A similar trend has been taking place in recent years in the United States, most notably in New England.

Research conducted by the U.S. Health Department shows that between 2012 and 2016, the number of transplants coming from donors who died due to “drug intoxication” more than doubled, from five per cent to 12 per cent.

More than 25 per cent of all deceased donors died from drug intoxication in the northeastern region in 2016, compared to 12 per cent in 2012. The area encompasses Maine, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Connecticut and Rhode Island.

The Canadian Institute of Health Information says 2,580 transplants were performed across the country in 2015. More than 4,700 patients waited for a transplant that year, while 21 either withdrew or died while on the waitlist.

 

Geordon Omand, The Canadian Press

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Blue Bridge Theatre
Stratford star teams up with Blue Bridge Theatre

A New Take on a Perennial Favourite

The COVID-19 pandemic had an effect on film production on central and north Vancouver Island, says Vancouver Island North Film Commission. Pictured here, production of TV series Resident Alien in Ladysmith earlier this year. (Black Press file)
Film commissioner says COVID-19 cost central Island $6 million in economic activity

Jurassic World: Dominion, Chesapeake Shores among productions halted due to pandemic, says INFilm

Chelsey Moore’s character Chloe in the upcoming virtual reality game Altdeus: Beyond Chronos. Screengrab
Vancouver Island actress finds success in a virtual world

Black Creek’s Chelsey Moore lends her voice to a new video game set for release in December

Ceramic artist Darrel Hancock working on a clay jug in his home studio in Qualicum Beach. (Submitted photo)
Qualicum Beach potter Darrel Hancock celebrates 40 years in business

‘It’s wonderful to do what you love and make a living at it’

Artist Daniel Cline discusses his sculpture, Harmony Humpbacks, during the June 20 walking tour of Oak Bay’s 2019 ArtsAlive sculptures. Harmony Humpbacks was purchased by Oak Bay as the 2019 people’s choice winner and is permanently installed at the Beach Drive entrance to Willows Park. (Kevin Murdoch Photo)
Influx of donated art a ‘fantastic problem to have,’ says Oak Bay mayor

Oak Bay goes from zero to 10 permanent art pieces since 2015

Stephen Laidlaw, prepator with Nanaimo Art Gallery, hangs a photograph of Anna Wong, a B.C. print maker whose works are on display at the gallery. The exhibit opens Friday, Dec. 4, and runs until Feb. 7. (Chris Bush/News Bulletin)
Nanaimo Art Gallery exhibit explores life work of overlooked B.C. printmaker

‘Anna Wong: Traveller on Two Roads’ features more than 70 art works and personal belongings

Nanaimo rappers Konfidential and Teus released their first joint album, <em>The Invasion</em>. (Photo courtesy Raymond Knight)
Nanaimo rappers Konfidential and Teus release first joint album

Duo plan elaborate live-streamed CD release for ‘The Invasion’

Next month Nanaimo musician Spencer Hiemstra releases his solo debut album, ‘Wildlife.’ (Photo submitted)
Nanaimo musician Spencer Hiemstra releases solo debut album

New record ‘Wildlife’ about taking chances and going through changes

Dover Bay Secondary School student Victoria Hathfield’s poem <em>Dear Santa</em> appears in<em> Chicken Soup for the Soul: Christmas is in the Air</em>. (Photo courtesy Darren Lee)
Nanaimo high schooler has first poem published in ‘Chicken Soup for the Soul’

Victoria Hathfield’s ‘Dear Santa’ appears in new Christmas-themed edition of anthology series

Nanaimo graphic designer Amy Pye has written and illustrated her first children’s book, <em>G is for Grizzly Bear: A Canadian Alphabet</em>. (Photo courtesy Amy Pye)
Nanaimo graphic designer releases first children’s book

Amy Pye teaches the Canadian alphabet in ‘G is for Grizzly Bear’

The Vancouver Island Symphony’s Back Row Brass Quintet – including trumpeter Mark D’Angelo, tuba player Nick Atkinson and French horn player Karen Hough (from left) – were scheduled to tour the Nanaimo area with Christmas Under the Big Tent, but the concert series has now been cancelled. (Photo courtesy HA Photography)
Symphony brass quintet’s Christmas concert series cancelled

Performances were to happen at venues in Parksville and Lantzville next month

The Sheringham Point Lighthouse, near Shirley. (Contributed - Lee-Ann Ruttan)
New book shines a light on Sheringham Point Lighthouse

Publication examines history, lightkeepers, and volunteer society

Victoria-based guitarist Eric Harper performs at the Port Theatre on Nov. 27. (Photo credit Tatum Duryba)
Classical guitarist to play at the Port Theatre

Eric Harper to play new songs composed during the pandemic

Most Read