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Alcoholic Cirrhosis Kills 22 Year Old Londoner Who Was Denied a Liver Transplant

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posted 10:52 AM EST, Tue July 21, 2009
Alcoholic Cirrhosis Kills 22 Year Old Londoner Who Was Denied a Liver Transplant © Photo Credit: Times Newspapers Ltd.

Britons are looking hard at the problems of teen drinking after the death of 22 year old Gary Reinbach from complications related to advanced cirrhosis of the liver.

Gary Reinbach began drinking as an 11 year old and drank heavily from the age of 13. Near the end of his life, prior to his admittance at University College Hospital London, the 22 year old drank a large bottle of vodka daily.

Ten weeks ago, persistent vomiting brought him to hospital, where doctors diagnosed advanced cirrhosis of the liver and predicted that without a new liver, the young man had only weeks to live. Problematicaly, the National Health System (NHS) Blood and Transplant will not provide a liver for any patient until he or she can prove 6 months of out of hospital abstinence from alcohol.

Reinbach was skipping school by the age of 13 to drink bottles of cider in the park with friends. By the age of 16 he had left school and graduated to liquor and harder beers. Although he attended some alcoholics anonymous meetings near the end of his life, his worsening health precluded him from leaving the hospital and so he was unable to prove to the transplant board of his ability to abstain from alcohol outside of a hospital environment. Additionally, his rapid demise (just 10 weeks from diagnosis to death) left him no opportunity to meet the 6 month minimum abstention guideline for transplant.

On the last days of his life, Reinbach begged doctors to no avail for a transplant liver.

Reinbach stopped breathing on his own 2 days ago and died yesterday, after doctors removed life support machinery.

In a statement, the NHS said "This case highlights the dilemma doctors face because of the shortage of donated organs. They have to make tough decisions about who is going to get the benefit and who is going to take best care of this precious gift."

Sarah Mathews, of the British Liver Trust, explained that although a 22 year old cirrhotic patient was, “a difficult situation” that transplant rules are quite strict.

The British public health group, Alcohol Concern, has called for more research on the effects of alcohol on adolescent health. An Alcohol Concern spokesperson commented on Reinbach’s tragic death, saying, “The case doesn't surprise us at all, sadly. Statistics show that more people are getting liver disease in their 30s and if more teenagers are drinking people will become seriously ill at a younger age."

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