Should Alcoholics Get Liver Transplants?

I just read a blog post on Psychology Today concerning whether alcoholics should be allowed to have liver transplants. I was surprised, because I thought that, for the most part, organs weren’t given to alcoholics and drug addicts. Maybe I just watch too much House and Scrubs, but don’t the transplant boards in local hospitals who decide who does and does not go on the transplant typically frown on addictions? If you’re a doctor and you know about these things, please comment.

I took note of the last paragraph in this article:

The public understanding of addiction lags behind that of other mental disorders. Telling an alcoholic to “stop drinking” is like telling a victim of depression to “cheer up” or an anxiety sufferer to “calm down”. In the past few decades, great progress has been made in recognizing diseases like depression, anxiety and posttraumatic stress disorder for what they are; medical conditions deserving of sympathy and treatment. We still have a long way to go with addiction.

I can’t really get behind this rationale. Alcoholism and drug abuse certainly lead to some severe physical and psychological dependence issues, but I don’t see it as a disease in the same sense as the others. In the end, every time you drink, even the first time you drank, you make a choice. Now it’s certainly not as easy as “stop doing that,” but that does not mean that it isn’t a choice. You can’t say the same thing for depression and anxiety.

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One Response to Should Alcoholics Get Liver Transplants?

  1. Bob Aronson says:

    Yes, you can say the same thing about depression and anxiety. I have been a recovering alcholic since 1982, I have also suffered from depression and anxiety..they are the same and not a matter of “choice.” A counselor told me a long time ago, “If you think will power will work on addiction, try using it the next time you have diarhia…they are exactly the same.”

    By the way, I had a heart transplant 18 months ago despite my alcoholism.

    Bob Aronson

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