July 7, 2022

Alcoholics get second chance at liver transplants

Gravely ill alcoholics who need a liver transplant should not always have to prove they can stay sober for six months to get one, doctors have said in a study.

Gravely ill alcoholics who need a liver transplant should not always have to prove they can stay sober for six months to get one, doctors have said in a study. This could inflame the debate about whether people who destroy their organs with alcohol deserve new ones. The small French study showed that patients who received a liver without the six-month wait stopped drinking after surgery and were sober years later. The study dealt with patients who had such severe hepatitis that it was unlikely they would survive the waiting period.

Alcohol can cause liver-destroying illnesses such as hepatitis and cirrhosis. Almost one in five liver transplants in the US go to former heavy drinkers. Transplant hospitals commonly require patients to stop drinking for six months to demonstrate that they will stay on the wagon after they get a new liver. However, drinkers make up only a fraction of patients needing transplants. The French study suggests that dropping the six-month rule for these patients would increase demand for livers by only around 3 percent. 

Dr Philippe Mathurin of Huriez Hospital in Lille, France, said that the six-month rule is unfair to alcoholics. Many other patients need livers because of other bad lifestyle choices, such as obesity or drug abuse. Dr Robert S Brown Jr, of New York-Presbyterian Hospital/Columbia University Medical Centre, also said the six-month rule needs rethinking. “The challenge of this paper is to come up with better ways, both to treat alcoholism as a disease and to predict who will succeed with transplantation,” he said. ~ Washington Post, Nov 10

Alcoholics get second chance at liver transplants
Jared Yee
organ donation
organ transplantation
organ transplants