Tuesday, 25 August 2009

Kid ruins his liver drinking, now dad battles to save his life

I keep going back and forth on this one. Gareth Anderson, a 19 year old in the UK went on a binge drinking weekend with friends and destroyed his liver. In order to survive, Gareth needs to receive a liver transplant and soon - however British transplant rules say that you have to be "alocohol-free" for 6 months prior to the transplant. On one hand this young man is only 19, he did not commit any crime (that I know of), the damage he has done is to himself, and death is a pretty serious consequence for a weekend of drinking. On the other hand - he is 19 and it is not rocket science to know that binge drinking can ruin your liver and kill you. He is legally an adult. The transplant rules are in place for a reason - to stop alcoholics from abusing the system.

Yesterday at the gym I watched Gareth's dad being interviewd on the news. It made my opinion swing more against the transplant than for it. Of course it was very sad to see a father, who is doing anything and everything he can to save his son's life. I would not expect any less. However, one of his main arguments was that there is no way his son can be an alcoholic because he is only 19 and has only been drinking since he was 16. Um sorry sir but three years is plenty of time to become an alcoholic, and appearing to be in denial is not a way to get the public on your side.

Alcoholism is a very serious problem in the UK - ask any expat here and they will tell you how truly shocking it is to see people passed out at the bars or on the street in the middle of the day, until you realize it is common. What kind of message are we sending to young people in the land of no consequences if we give this guy a new liver after he recklessly destroyed his own perfectly good one?

Gareth Anderson does not deserve a new liver. Still, I struggle with the idea that the UK can release a mass murdering terrorist on compassionate grounds, but cannot give a life saving operation to a non criminal teenager. Under the regulations Gareth Anderson is not entitled to a transplant. He does not have the right to one, particularly if he is taking a liver that could be going to someone else who played no role in their own illness. However, it is difficult ot brush aside the life of a 19 year old boy, even a foolish one. The truth is that although he does not have the right to a transplant, giving Gareth Anderson a new chance at life would be a genuine act of mercy and compassion.