Drug overdose deaths lead to jump in organ donations

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Tina Snyder, left, and Courtney Winder visit the grave of — respectively — their son and brother in July. The 24-year-old died of an opioid overdose in November. Winder lost another brother to an overdose in 2014. Must credit: Washington Post photo by Michael S. Williamson

Though the number of lives lost to the US opioid epidemic continues to spike, it has also contributed to a record number of organ donations.

According to the United Network for Organ Sharing, the nonprofit that manages the nation's organ transplant network, early data show that the number of deceased organ donors hit a record in 2017 for the fifth straight year.

There was also a record number of total donors, both living and deceased: 16,462, up 3 percent from the year before. There were more than 10,000 deceased organ donors last year, a 3 percent increase over the previous year and a 27 percent jump since 2007.

"About 40 percent of the increase (in the past five years) tracks back to the drug intoxication issue," said Dr. David Klassen, the network's chief medical officer. And although the data didn't determine which drugs contributed to those overdoses, Klassen said opioids were probably involved. "We don't have the data ... to absolutely say that with certainty, but I think that's a reasonable assumption."

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Snake River H.S. to host free health fair

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