THE CIRRHOSIS TIMEBOMB; from One of Britain's Leading Liver Consultants, a Terrible Warning of How Young Women Are Killing Themselves through Drink

Daily Mail (London), September 13, 2005 | Go to article overview

THE CIRRHOSIS TIMEBOMB; from One of Britain's Leading Liver Consultants, a Terrible Warning of How Young Women Are Killing Themselves through Drink


By Dr KIERAN MORIARTY

Consultant gastroenterologist at the Royal Bolton Hospital LET me tell you the sorry tale of a patient of mine - now dead - whom I will call Kathy. She had been drinking since she was 16, and by her mid-20s had been in and out of hospital 15 times with severe internal bleeding, a result of her excessive alcohol consumption.

My nurses were particularly distressed that a young woman of their own age - someone with whom they could so easily identify - and the mother of a young child, was in such a shocking state.

For, as well as her internal bleeding, this time Kathy had jaundice, was confused and passed in and out of a coma.

The nurses were very shaken, as indeed was I, when she said in a lucid moment that she couldn't go on with life: 'Doctor, I have had enough,' she told me. 'I am going to give up.' I looked at her, so damaged and vulnerable, and said: 'Well, we are not going to give up on you.' And we didn't.

Somehow, we pulled Kathy through, and for six years she kept off the drink, looked after her child and even built up a small but profitable business.

However, she eventually weakened and relapsed. She lost her child, her business, her home, and was reduced to living in a skip, before she died a very unpleasant death in her mid-30s.

Sadly, every consultant in my line of work expects to come across one or two Kathys in the course of his or her professional lifetime.

The alarming thing is that I have already seen five women in their 20s die as a result of alcohol abuse.

I fear there will be many more unless the Government's ill-conceived plans to allow round-the-clock drinking from November are abandoned.

Critics of the proposed new legislation have rightly concentrated on the social chaos which they are convinced will follow if clubs, pubs and off-licenses really are allowed to sell alcohol 24 hours a day. Police chiefs, judges and academics, too, have united to condemn this reckless gamble.

Like me, they simply do not see any reason to believe that the growing menace of binge drinking, violence and yobbery which so disfigure our city centres every weekend will be reduced if closing hours are staggered or abolished. Just the opposite, most experts would say .

However, there are other issues surrounding these proposals that have not yet had the airing they deserve.

As a consultant gastroenterologist who has advised the Department of Health on alcohol-related problems, and who spends much of his working life dealing with the effects of alcohol abuse, I am concerned with the health of the nation, as well as social policy.

I am convinced that longer drinking hours would lead to huge and costly medical problems, including an increase in cases of cirrhosis of the liver among young people, and in particular young women, within the next ten years.

Already, my colleagues and I have seen a sharp increase in the number of young people dying of alcohol-related liver diseases in their 20s and 30s.

And remember that traditionally - if not entirely accurately - cirrhosis had been seen as a disease of elderly men paying the price for a lifetime of heavy drinking. …

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