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Hepatitis hearts

As the drug crisis kills thousands each year, an uptick in organ donations from addicts who have died

Hepatitis hearts

Discarded syringes for injecting heroin lie scattered on the street (Jonathan Elderfield/AP)

A New York moment: 

I had a dinner conversation recently with Dr. Mark Merlin, who oversees much of New Jersey’s emergency medical services. The drug crisis has stretched EMS departments, but Merlin shared one silver lining from the sad crisis: Hospitals have begun using organs from deceased addicts to save lives. The problem, according to Merlin, is making sure the transfer system works. He said many life-saving organs are left on the scene, never to make it to a hospital for transplants.

Then last week I opened my Wall Street Journal and read about NYU Langone hospital starting to transplant hearts and lungs infected with Hepatitis C, organs that typically come from addicts. Last fall, the head of the transplant department himself was the 17th person at NYU to receive a Hepatitis C-infected heart, which came from a heroin addict who had overdosed. The surgeon, Dr. Robert Montgomery, had to take medicine for a few months to treat Hep C, but otherwise he seems to be doing well, and is serving as an example to those seeking transplants.

Until this drug epidemic, which tragically has killed 72,000 a year and reduced U.S. life expectancy, organ donation had not increased for decades. But according to the WSJ, available organs have gone up 30 percent as a result of the crisis, perhaps saving some of the more than 113,000 who are on organ donation waiting lists. Life out of death.

Worth your time:  

This story about Democratic Sen. Chris Coons’ friendships across the aisle—especially with Republican Sen. James Lankford—built on Christian faith. In watching the Brett Kavanaugh hearing, I found Coons to be one of the few senators who asked balanced, substantive questions that were aimed at finding truth rather than scoring points. 

Leon Bennett/Getty Images

Marc Evan Jackson (Leon Bennett/Getty Images)

This week I learned: 

That Marc Evan Jackson, who plays Shawn on NBC’s The Good Place, was a voice actor on the Adventures in Odyssey radio series. Incredible. He’s also a Calvin College graduate. 

A court case you might not know about: 

A lawsuit is challenging Pacer fees, which federal courts charge for access to any documents in a case at a whopping 10 cents per page. For a journalist covering a case, or just an interested citizen, that tab adds up very quickly. We at WORLD have paid many dollars in Pacer fees. The lawsuit says the fees are exponentially higher than the cost of transmitting the data, and create a barrier to public information. 

Culture I am consuming: 

I’m a few years behind, but I finally watched Kenneth Branagh’s Cinderella, which doesn’t break any new Disney ground, but is solid storytelling built on a good cast. 

Email me with tips, story ideas, and feedback at ebelz@wng.org