Belfast Telegraph

Tuesday 21 October 2014

Lindy McDowell: Why we need to call time on teenage binge drinking habit

Professor Roger Williams is right when he calls for 19-year-old Gareth Anderson to be given the liver transplant he needs to save his life.

Under NHS rules Gareth is denied the transplant because his liver failure is alcohol related — the result of a drinking binge.

The rules state that he must prove he can abstain from alcohol for six months. The cruel twist is that Gareth doesn’t have that long

Priority, says the Prof, should be given to a young patient.

But his views are not shared by many online posters who argue — often in very brutal and blunt terms — that the lad has no-one to blame but himself and should not get treatment. Is it that clear cut though?

Northern Ireland — the British Isles in general — has a notorious binge drinking culture particularly among the young.

Why would Gareth have thought that he would be the one who would become so catastrophically ill? Everybody else was getting off with it

Maybe this is the crux of the problem. The government message to young people is “drink and you could make a pillock of yourself. Or pick up a dodgy disease. Or get attacked”.

The dangers of liver disease and more especially the message that if you succumb through alcohol abuse you’ll not get the treatment you need, hasn’t been clearly spelt out.

Well, it has now

Gareth however, should be shown compassion. In his case the rules should be bent.

But for the future — and bearing in mind those other patients in Northern Ireland who for different reasons also need liver transplants — there has to be a campaign that robustly tackles the problem of teenage drinking.

How many more heart-rending cases like Gareth do we want?

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