Opioid deaths contribute to record-rise of organ donations


CHARLOTTE, NC (FOX 46 WJZY) — This slideshow requires JavaScript.

A record amount of organ donations are being seen across the country due to the opioid epidemic.

“The Carolinas are basically mirroring the national trend,” Lifeshare Of The Carolinas’ Debbie Gibbs said.

Lifeshare said that in 2016, 13 percent of its organ donations were from drug overdoses, the majority being opioid deaths. That number jumped to 21 percent in 2017.

Jonathan Ledbetter, 19, died from an opioid overdose (fentanyl) in his hometown of Shelby in November 2017. His heart, liver and two lungs each saved a life, according to Lifeshare. 

“He was always willing to jump in and help,” mother Jane Ledbetter said. “And his organ donation was the very last thing that he could do to help people.”

Ledbetter had registered as an organ donor at the DMV. 

“Often, people who become donors as a result of a drug overdose are young people who are otherwise healthy,” Gibbs said. “Their organs are certainly viable and suitable for transplantation.

“And of course with any donor, no matter what their age or their cause of death, we do screening to make sure that any organ that is transplanted is suitable for transplantation.”

You can register to become an organ donor at https://www.lifesharecarolinas.org.

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