In the UK, controversy rose after a 22 year old boy named Gary (last name not mentioned in the article I read, but is irrelevant to the debate) died after an extreme case of damaged liver. The boy had been "coma drinking" (this basically means drinking such high amounts of alcohol until you crash out into a coma-esque state ; unfortunately a fashion amongst young people in certain scenes in Europe ) since age 13. Now, 9 years later, he was hospitalised with a liver that was extremely damaged and only a transplant could save his life. The local committee decided to refuse the transplant based on the argument there was no indication that the boy could stay away from alcohol for more than 6 months due to his extreme addiction.
The young man passed away now, with the mourning mother complaining that the government refused to save the life of her son by refusing the transplant.
Local committees usually decide on who can get a transplant (as the number of people waiting is higher than the number of organs available) and a criterium is that in case of previous alcohol addiction there must be indication that the person can stay away from alcohol after the transplant.
Do you think medical science should always save the lives of whoever comes into the hospital, on a "first come, first served" base and of course based upon the principle that a surgeon should always do the maximum to save a life? Or do you agree that sometimes ethics must be used to make difficult decisions who can get transplants and who cannot (and if so: which criteria should be used for such difficult decisions, who should make these decisions at all?) ??
A tough question I'd say. I agree somewhat that if 5 people need a new liver and only 3 organs are available, somehow you need to allocate them. But then who would want to make such life-determining decisions, and on what ground? I think my conscience would eat me for life if I tell a mother that her son will die because he wasn't selected for a transplant (alcoholic or not...). I know a "first come, first serve" is not always possible, on the other hand the principle that doctors should always do the maximum to save lives did get violated... Very very tough call.
As a sidenote: the coma drinking "fashion" in Europe is very worrying. Alcohol is more and more ever-present here. Back when I lived in Ireland I frequently saw 10 year olds at night on the street drinking wodka ; when you would call the police then they would not do anything, and no citizen dared to interfere because they were usually in group and could become aggressive. Police did little or nothing about the problem. Here in Eastern Europe I haven't seen teenage alcoholics, but I can safely say alcohol has a dominant role in society with many people drinking high amounts every night they go out, and with overdosed people sleeping on the streets being a frequent sight. Only recently me and another bypasser had to call an ambulance with our mobile when one guy literally fell down in the middle of the street, totally passing out on a high intake of liquor. When I tell people that I abstain from alcohol, I am looked upon as if they cannot understand why someone would not drink.
Other than the ethical question described with this particular guy in England, there is a serious alcohol problem in Europe and the question is what to do about it? Making it illegal won't work, disencouraging drinking may be the answer but how do you tackle that?