Organ donations up, doctor thinks it could be due to rise in heroin overdoses

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. -- Organ donations across Indiana are up, and a local doctor thinks it could be due to the rise in heroin overdoses.

Dr. Tim Taber, with IU Health, told FOX59 the rise has become noticeable.

"We’ve seen, in Indiana, our donor numbers go up by about 30 a year and I think a lot of that is because of the heroin overdoses," Taber said.

Overdosing on the drug does not affect the viability of organs.

"The reason people die of heroin overdoses is they stop breathing. It suppresses their respiratory centers, but it doesn’t hurt their organs," Taber said.

Three years ago, Amy Hunter's 21-year-old son Jake Meyer died of an overdose, and she said it was an easy decision to donate his organs.

"Jake got his driver’s license the year before he died simply because he wanted to be an organ donor, and he was really proud of it," Hunter said.

She wasn't surprised to hear about overdoses leading to such a tragic reason for an increase in donations.

"It’s an epidemic," Hunter said. "The immediate response of people is, 'It won’t happen to me, it won’t happen to my son, it won’t happen to my daughter, and it does."

Taber said that while there are more than 1,300 Hoosiers waiting on an organ donation, this is not how he likes to see the number of donors go up.

"It’s a tragedy, because it’s just a terrible loss of life," Taber said.

Hunter never found out who received her son's organs, but said that letting him save others did provide a small bit of relief.

"It’s not the best case scenario for us, obviously, but knowing that he did something to help other people is something I can hold onto," Hunter said.

While Taber believes the correlation is being seen in Indiana, there's been no research or studies done to prove that and the Indiana Donor Network says it has not looked into whether that could be the case.

To learn more about organ donation through the Indiana Donor Network, click the link here.