This month Sally Davies, the UK’s Chief Medical Office published her first annual report. In that report she highlighted the increase of Liver Disease in the UK and how this is linked to life style choices and behaviors such as alcohol, obesity and infection. There was a lot of national media coverage generated.
Whilst people undoubtedly need to be educated on the topic so they can make informed decisions Ms. Davies’ comments fail to include that some liver disease isn’t self-imposed – it just happens. My concern is that by framing liver disease in the media as “self-inflicted” that the public then reduces is sympathy for the cause both in terms of charitable support and of registering to be organ donators in the event of their death.
There’s a massive shortfall of livers for transplant in this country and many people die whilst on the waiting list. PSC, the disease my wife suffers with isn’t caught or incurred due to lifestyle choice – it just happens. They don’t know why and there’s little to no funding for research. There are plenty of other “non-lifestyle” liver diseases out there too.
There’s a stigma to Liver disease – I regularly hear people with PSC act as if they have to justify their illness “it’s not because of alcohol or drugs” etc. I think that our Chief Medical Officer has just helped reinforce that stigma and ultimately risked damaging support for Liver disease sufferers and charities in the UK. Next time Sally please thinks about the broader context and communicate more effectively!
Apart from helping PSC Support, my chosen charity there’s something else you can do though – register to be an organ donor and discuss it with your next of kin so they don’t have the burden of a tough decision at a difficult time. Most of us would want an organ transplant if we needed it yet so very few us register to donate…