A recent study has shown that the Covid-19 stay at home order has reduced California’s traffic congestion, and therefore traffic accidents. This is a small positive in a really trying times; however, there is one side to this statistic that people have not considered. As traffic incident deaths decrease, so too do the number of organ donations, according to California accident attorney Brad Nakase. Organ donations are reliant on accidental deaths, many of which come from car accidents, which have dramatically decreased in the last few months as the nation went into lockdown. In the first three weeks of the stay at home order, traffic collision deaths decreased by half, and drowning deaths dropped by 80%. UNOS data has shown between the 8th of March and 11th of April, organ donations from traffic accidents were down 23% compared to last year, and organ donation from other accidents are down 21%.
In summer, organ donations increase due to the surge in outdoor activities and travel; however, with most of the summer spent inside our homes, organ donation numbers are woefully low. There are no spring-break related accidents because of the cancellation of spring break, and motorcycle accidents, hunting accidents, and beach accidents are also almost non-existent.
Overall, doctors have noted a reduction in emergency room visits. Stroke and heart attacks are the second and third most common deaths that result in organ donation. Strokes account for 27% of organ donations, and heart attacks account for 20%. For organs to be kept viable, people must be declared brain-dead or dead which on a ventilator, so blood is still pumping to the organs. Therefore, if people die from a heart attack or stroke at home, their organs are not viable to be used for transplants.
Hospital Coronavirus Preparations Have Reduced Transplants
Hospitals have reduced all of their surgeries to ensure they have enough supplies to deal with the Covid-19 pandemic. They have needed to preserve PPE and ventilators and have not had the staff or resources to manage the complexity and delicate timing of organ recovery, transportation, and transplantation. UNOS data shows that between 8th of March and 11th of April, transplant surgeries are down 52%.
There are just too many things going on to dedicate the time and resources to the nuanced art of organ transplantation, and deadly coronavirus cases have taken precedent.
In preparation for waves of Covid-19 patients, hospitals cleared their schedules to allow all ventilators to be used for severe cases. Ventilators are used during the transplant process, with organ donors being on ventilators for up to 3 days while the logistics are arranged, and multiple recipients are on ventilators during their transplant surgery. Hospitals preferred to keep the ventilators for Covid-19 patients so they could say they were doing everything they could for these cases. Many coronavirus fatalities were organ donors, but transplants were disproved because of a lack of resources and because there was a risk of infecting organ recipients.
Another issue that hospitals faced was a lack of testing supplies to test if potential donors had been infected with coronavirus. The tests had to be preserved for staff and hospital admissions to properly treat and quarantine patients, so there were none to spare for the deceased.