Organ Donations Decrease Due To Covid-19

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United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS) has recently released concerning data which shows that organ donation rates have dropped significantly during the coronavirus crisis. Between the 8th of March and 11th of April, organ donation was down 23% from the previous year. So what is the cause for these numbers?

The main cause for the reduction in organ transplants is hospitals just do not have the resources to complete them. They do not have the staff, equipment, or hospital beds to spare for such a delicate and nuanced surgery. In preparation for the Covid-19 epidemic, hospitals cancelled a number of surgeries to ensure they had enough hospital beds and ventilators to spare for infected patients. 

Ventilators are important resources in the fight against coronavirus and transplant surgeries require ventilators for the donor and the recipients. Often, after being declared brain dead, a donor will be left on a ventilator for up to three days while the logistics of the organ transplants are worked out, according to one of the best California car accident attorney Brad Nakase. Testing has to be done on the health of the organs, and UNOS has to determine where each organ will be going. Often organs will go to multiple recipients across the country, all of whom need a ventilator for the surgery, and depending on the organ being transplanted, may require one on standby afterwards. Many hospitals preferred to keep ventilators for Covid-19 admissions, cancelling any other surgeries that required ventilators. As it is, many hospitals are struggling to provide admissions with ventilators and are having to make some tricky decisions as to who gets one. 

In addition to the resources the organ donation process requires, hospitals barely have enough kits to test their staff and hospital admissions, let alone test organ donors for Covid-19. To ensure organ recipients are not infected, it was decided that unless the organ donor tests negative for coronavirus, the organs are not allowed to be donated. Similarly, many coronavirus fatalities were organ donors; however, there is not enough data to determine whether the recipient would be at risk of infection. 

Stay At Home Orders Have Reduced The Amount of Organ Donations 

Even if hospitals were equipped to perform organ transplants, stay at home orders mean that the number of deaths from accidents has dropped significantly. Fatal traffic accidents are the biggest provider of organ donation, and the number of fatal accidents has halved since the stay at home order was enforced. UNOS often sees a surge of organ donation in summer due to spring break accidents, motorcycle accidents, and beach accidents, but this year deaths for those reasons are almost non-existent. Drownings are down by 80% alone. 

Emergency rooms are not seeing as many admissions for non-Covid-19 related illnesses or accidents. Doctors say they do not see many strokes and heart attack patients which usually make up the second and third largest causes of organ donations. They believe that many people are avoiding the hospital, even for heart attack symptoms, and therefore people are passing away at home, which renders the organs unviable. An organ donor must die or become braindead while on a ventilator to ensure organs have proper blood flow and are viable for transplant. If a heart attack or stroke victim passes away in hospital, they are able to be put on a ventilator, so their organs stay healthy while the transplants are arranged. 

In the period of 8th of March to 11th of August 2020, organ donation from traffic collisions was down 23%, and organ donation from other causes was down 21%. While the reduction of accident-related deaths is positive for many, for those on the UNOS waiting list, it prolongs their wait for healthy organs.