1 of 4 UK Liver Transplants Go to Alcoholics

Situation sparks fury among families of victims who died waiting for transplant
By Wesley Oliver,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 15, 2009 9:22 AM CST
Tim Garon lies in his hospital bed as his girlfriend, Leisa Bueno, sits with him while they wait to hear if he will be put on a transplant list to receive a new liver in Seattle.   (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)
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(Newser) – Nearly one quarter of those receiving liver transplants in the UK are heavy drinkers, prompting a fiery debate over the allocation of organs to alcoholics, the Guardian reports. In the past decade, as waiting lists have lengthened, transplants for heavy drinkers have spiked 60%—a trend the mother of one deceased donor called “offensive, terrible, and unfair.”

Surgeons can refuse transplants to patients who don’t exhibit a genuine intention to stop drinking post-operation. “If someone won't promise, you could refuse them the transplant on clinical rather than ethical grounds,” explained one doctor. In Britain, twice as many people are dying of alcohol abuse as 15 years ago, leading one official to suggest increasing the price of alcohol.