Wednesday, July 22, 2009
So sad, the news that came my way this morning, a 22 year-old's plea for a transplant was refused. Alcoholic Gary Reinbach dead at 22 after transplant refused while at University College Hospital in London. This is a troubling story, which I read on Times Online, of the ethics in the health care system on a global level; unfortunately, this is not a new story, nor one that we will not hear again. How a 22 year kid could be refused a liver transplant, despite his alcoholism, has to make you wonder: Is the donor organ system flawed?
Gary Reinbach started drinking at a very young age, a product of a broken home in Essex, England. Nine years later he would be diagnosed and admitted to the hospital for an alcohol related illness for the first time. He was diagnosed with cirrhosis of the liver which is a fatal disorder that requires a liver transplant. The catch 22 is that in order for an alcoholic to receive a transplant they must demonstrate that the have been sober for 6 months; an impossible feat for a patient that does not have 6 months to live. Gary's doctors and his family went public making an appeal for the rules to be waived. But, despite their appeal Reinbach died less than 48 hours after it was issued; he died only 10 weeks after being admitted. This is unacceptable on multiple fronts for the fact is that people who suffer from the disease of alcoholism get less of an opportunity to receive proper health care than other diseases; do they make obese people swear they will stop overeating before they are given an insulin pump? Alcoholism is a disease that is far from understood by the masses of people who believe that alcoholics simply lack will power and that is why they continue to drink.
It is fair to say that if Gary were granted the transplant he would have had the opportunity to re-evaluate things and at least had one second chance to better his life. Sadly, this is not the case and the rules for donor organs do not leave room for exceptions; cutting people's lives short because people do not understand the disease concept of addiction. It is understandable that a repeat offender, someone in and out of hospitals for multiple years, does not receive a transplant; but, Gary was not one of those people, nor was he given the chance to prove that to be true.
My deepest sympathy and compassion goes out to Gary Reinbach's family. My greatest hope is that he did not die in vain and that his story will convince policy makers that a change needs to be made. Please share your thoughts with me on this subject as I will be glad to hear other's opinions. This story deeply pains my heart!