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To clarify; alcoholics and liver transplants

To clarify; alcoholics and liver transplants
Phil Newton
This post is a response to Do Alcoholics Deserve Liver Transplants? by Phil Newton

I have received a number of comments on my original post and I want to make sure I'm absolutely clear. My intention was to use the issue of liver transplantation to highlight how some people view alcoholics as being at fault for their alcoholism.


There are multiple issues surrounding organ donation. One of these is that the clinical team performing the transplant has to determine whether the person receiving the organ is fit and healthy enough to receive it. Having a current diagnosis of alcoholism will obviously impact that assessment. In the oft-cited hypothetical situation where a surgeon has to choose between giving a liver to an alcoholic vs a non-alcoholic patient, that surgeon may well conclude that, due to a likelihood of further alcohol abuse, the alcoholic will not benefit as much from the liver as the non-alcoholic. This clinical assessment is not the issue for me, it makes perfect sense.

My concern is the notion, highlighted in the quotes in my original post and in the subsequent published comment, that alcoholics do not deserve a liver transplant because them being an alcoholic is somehow their fault. Non-alcoholics chose whether or not to drink, alcoholics do not, they have completely lost control over this "choice". It may once have been a choice, but by very definition of them being alcoholic, it no longer is.

Philip M. Newton, Ph.D. is a Neuroscience Lecturer at Swansea University Medical School in the United Kingdom.


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