Organ Allocation and the Substance Abuser

An overview of the organ transplant process for substance abuse patients.

This paper looks at how between 10,000 and 12,000 people die annually who are considered medically suitable for organ donation and how only an estimated 6000 people donate. It discusses how, faced with the demand greatly exceeding the supply, we are faced with the moral and ethical decision of how to allocate these organs. In particular, it focuses on liver transplants and the ethics of giving patients who failed to seek treatment for their alcoholism a lower priority for organs over patients who are in need of a transplant through no fault of their own.
“Individuals with a reversible disease such as alcoholism should seek help before it progresses into the stage where transplantation is necessary. Alcoholism is a chronic disease, for which treatment is available and effective. Alcoholics should be held responsible for seeking and obtaining treatment that could prevent the development of late-stage complications such as the development of late-stage complications such as ARESLD. This view is consistent with that of Alcoholics Anonymous in the belief that alcoholics are responsible for undertaking a program of recovery that will keep their disease of alcoholism in remission. One comprehensive review concluded that more than two thirds of patients who accept therapy improve (Steinbock, Arras, and London, 2003).”