Healthcare News & Insights

Controversy: Docs argue active alcoholics should be on transplant lists

A group of doctors is advocating allowing alcoholics to get liver transplants even if they can’t prove that they can stay sober for six months.

That decision is based on the results of a small study that showed the majority of patients who got a liver transplant stayed sober after the surgery. The study focused on patients likely to die within six months from alcohol-related hepatitis if they didn’t get a transplant. The study was published in the New England Journal of Medicine.

Traditionally, alcoholic patients have been asked to get sober before they were given a liver transplant, out of concern that continued drinking would ruin the donated organ.

Opening up liver transplants to these patients would increase demand for the organs by only about 3%, according to the study. But some critics think even that small increase is too much given the possibility of “wasting” organs on patients who may not be able to stay sober after the transplant.

The researchers counter that many organ transplant patients have diseases caused at least in part by poor decisions related to diet, activities and other drug use.

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