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The Rise In Liver Swaps

Monday, February 16th, 2009 The Rise In Liver Swaps

Two reports detailing the level of alcohol abuse leading to the sharp rise in the need for liver transplants in both the Independent and the Mail (16 02 09).

It has emerged that one in four liver transplants are for binge drinkers. Notwithstanding, figures released by health minister Ann Keen show the number of transplant cases involving damage caused by alcohol rose by 61 per cent from 94 in 1997-08 to 151 in 2007-08. Some 1,300 people suffering alcoholic liver disease have received new livers since 1997-08 – just under a fifth of all transplants.

Over a decade, 1,300 people suffering from alcoholic liver disease have received new livers since 1997/98 – 18 per cent of the total number of patients having the operation.

Liberal Democrat culture spokesman Don Foster, who obtained the figures through a parliamentary question, blamed Britain’s ‘binge-drinking culture’ for the staggering increase.

He called for action to increase the price of the cheapest forms of alcohol, to stop it being sold at ‘pocket money prices’.

Mr Foster said: ‘Britain’s binge-drinking culture is causing serious long-term health problems for an ever-increasing number of people.

‘These figures are a stark warning about the impact alcohol is having on health services in this country.’

And a mother whose daughter whose organs helped to keep five people alive after she died described the rising use of organs for heavy drinkers as ‘offensive, terrible and unfair’.

Eunice Booker, whose 26-year-old daughter, Kirstie, perished in a car crash in 2006, told The Observer: ‘I find it offensive that one in four of the livers donated go to alcoholics.

‘If there are two people side by side wanting a liver, and both have the right tissue match, and one is an alcoholic and one isn’t, there’s no contest - you take the one who’s not an alcoholic, they are more entitled.’

According to the chief executive of the British Liver Trust, Alison Rogers asys ‘the death toll from alcohol remains unacceptably high’ and that twice as many people are dying from alcohol as 15 years ago.

A report by the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine two years ago suggested that deaths from cirrhosis of the liver were rising faster in Britain than anywhere else in Europe.

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