They should have given this 22-year-old alcoholic a liver
Gary Reinbach died a couple of days ago in the UK of alcoholic liver failure, aged just 22.
His life could have been saved with a liver transplant, but Gary didn’t qualify because he wasn’t well enough to leave hospital to prove he could clean himself up and deserved a second shot at growing up.
Obviously the allocation of donor organs has to comply with a set of criteria, such is the limited supply. But it seems amazing to me a 22-year-old could be told he wasn’t worth being on the list.
Liz Hunt in Telegraph UK argued it was right he was denied a transplant because it would have been a “liver wasted”.
His doctors didn’t think so. They made a public plea to overturn the rule that stated Gary had to live sober for six months to prove he should get the transplant. His death was the ultimate case of “computer says no.”
His mother said shortly before being admitted to hospital he had signed up for Alcoholics Anonymous, and she pointed out: “Gary didn’t know what he was doing when he was 13. He didn’t know it would come to this when he was 22. He didn’t know he was going to die. All his friends who were drinking with him are still at home, they are fine.”
Gary is now being held up as the ultimate cautionary tale to binge-drinking teenagers.
But his case is so extreme it’s unlikely anyone other than a very few would be able to relate to him in any way.
He reportedly started drinking aged 13 (not that unusual), and by 17 was up to eight cans of beer plus a bottle of vodka or half a bottle of whisky a day (pretty unusual).
At 22, just before being diagnosed with cirrhosis he was on a bottle of vodka per day.
That’s not normal, and any teenager faced with his story as a warning is going to know that. Turning him in to some sort of public service announcement now just compounds how horrible it is that the system thought he wasn’t worth saving.
He didn’t deserve to die waiting for a transplant - and his family shouldn’t be faced with I-told-you-so lectures about teenage binge drinking.
His life and his death were obviously a tragedy.
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