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Donor organs from drug addicts

12th December 2007

New information has revealed that surgeons are resorting to using organs from drug addicts during surgery because of a lack of available donors in the UK.

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During 2002-2007, 450 organs were sourced from donors who had been addicted to drugs. This can potentially increase the risk of infection and cause harm to an organ.

Currently, there are in excess of 8,000 people in the UK who require an organ transplant but only 3,000 transplants are performed annually. Estimates show that there is one death every day due to lack of available organs.

The lack of donors is partly because fewer people are dying in road accidents, which is where many "intact" organs are often sourced.

UK Transplant, the organisation responsible for transplants, said that during the 2002-2007 period, 10 hearts were sourced from individuals who had heart disease or had "suffered a heart attack".

In fourteen instances, organs were used from drug addicts whose death was caused by an overdose. A liver was transplanted from a person whose death was due to a paracetemol overdose.

About 3% of the donations performed over the five-year period were from people addicted to drugs. This represents a small percentage of the 14,261 transplants made during the same time.

Although organs undergo examination and screening for hepatitis or HIV, there is a danger of transmitting an infection which has not been registered by tests.

The government is considering a proposal that could put the entire population on the organ donor register, unless they chose to "opt out".




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