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Easier transplant rules for alcoholics

Alcoholics who do not show they can stay sober outside hospital are expected to be offered liver transplants for the first time next month.

A group of experts in liver disease will propose the change despite a shortage of organs. Under current guidelines, candidates for new livers have to show they can abstain from drink, usually for six months, before doctors approve a transplant.

The proposed lifting of the ban follows the death in July of Gary Reinbach, 22, from Dagenham, east London. He had severe alcohol-induced liver disease. Reinbach’s doctors believed only a transplant could save him but he was too ill to leave hospital and prove he could stay sober.

A panel of doctors working for the liver advisory group has been swayed by a trial in Lille, northern France, involving 18 alcoholics with liver disease who had not been well enough to show they could remain sober before their transplants.

Fifteen were still alive six months later compared with 44% of patients who had not received a new organ. The patients who received the transplants did not start drinking again.

Next month the liver advisory group will be asked to approve a similar trial in Britain. Dr Alexander Gimson, chairman of the group, is in favour of the change but said that it would be opposed by other patients waiting for a liver transplant.

There are 268 patients waiting for a liver; 91 died on the waiting list last year.

source: Sunday Times

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