A distraught Newtownards father is today set to take his battle for a liver transplant for his severely ill son to the High Court.
But while his legal team argue for a judicial review of a rule requiring alcoholics to be off drink for six months before being considered for a life-saving transplant, devoted dad Brian Anderson will travel to King’s Hospital in London to see his son Gareth.
The 19-year-old is being cared for in a specialist centre for liver disease where George Best was also treated.
Gareth fell ill from liver failure this month after a weekend spent binge drinking with friends.
Mr Anderson spoke to the Belfast Telegraph as he made last minute preparations before setting off to London to see his son.
“I was talking to Gareth this morning. He is very, very, very depressed and confused. He is a real home bird and like we say in Newtownards about a home bird, Gareth doesn’t like to have Scrabo Tower out of his sights,” he said.
“On Tuesday he will go to theatre to have a biopsy taken of his liver.”
Gareth’s mother Vivienne and Gareth’s best friend have been comforting him in Kings Hospital since he was transferred from the Ulster Hospital on Friday.
Mr Anderson said: “Gareth is in the best place though he is still not getting a transplant and is still not on the list. That’s the way things stand. We still have an uphill battle.”
Mr Anderson met Health Minister Michael McGimpsey to plea for the six month rule to be circumvented so that Gareth can be treated.
Mr McGimpsey has expressed concern for the teenager but has not agreed to bypass the strict six month rule.
The South Eastern Health Trust said Gareth was being moved so “management of his condition can be closely monitored”.
Dr Tony Tham, who treated Gareth in the Ulster Hospital, said: “This is a positive development in the ongoing management of his condition. However, the national rule that patients must be alcohol-free for six months before they can be considered for transplant remains in place.”
DUP health spokesman Jim Wells said investigations undertaken by party colleagues have revealed that “contrary to what is being reported, there is no six month rule for liver transplants”.
“A six-month period of abstinence from alcohol is one indicator used by medical staff but it cannot prevent people being placed on the waiting list for transplant,” he said. “Furthermore there are actually conflicting views about how reliable it is as an indicator anyway.”