Accept Eric Whitbread as a Liver Transplant Candidate on the Transplant List

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Eric Whitbread has decompensated liver cirrhosis and desperately needs a liver transplant to survive. Eric has been denied a liver transplant because of his short history of alcohol abuse. Without this life-saving procedure, Eric is not expected to live more than a few weeks, possibly a few months at best.

Eric is more than his cirrhosis diagnosis. He is a husband, a father, a son, a brother, a friend, a photographer, a musician, a cook, among many other things. Eric is just 40 years old. He and and his wife Aimee have been married for 15 years. They have two children: Maya is 14 and Ben is 10. Eric loves cars and has worked in the auto industry in one way or another throughout his adult life. He has a passion for food and enjoys teaching his kids how to prepare and cook amazing meals. Eric is also a musician with incredible talent for piano, guitar, and singing. There is so much more to Eric than just his liver failure.

Eric's cirrhosis was not caused by alcohol abuse alone. His liver was damaged due to acetaminophen, prescription medication, fatty liver disease, alcohol, and genetics. As a young man, Eric injured his lumbar spine and took acetaminophen in large doses to cope with the pain. He was prescribed and took a medication for the previous 6 years that lists acute liver failure as a rare, but possible, side effect. Eric didn't consistently eat a healthy, balanced diet or exercise regularly, which likely contributed to fatty liver disease. Eric was not a long-time alcoholic. He developed a moderate substance abuse disorder over a 3 year period as an unhealthy coping mechanism to deal with the stress of running a heavy-duty mechanic shop during the plummeting oil market days of 2014 and 2015, eventual closure of the business, months long employment search in 2016, and feelings of depression that followed. There is also a history of liver disease in his family. Despite the multi-factorial cause of Eric's liver failure, he is being denied a liver transplant solely due to his 3 years of alcohol abuse.

Eric's battle with liver disease has been very brief. He was told his liver was shutting down on August 7, 2017. He went home and poured all the alcohol in the house down the drain. He hasn't had a drink since August 6, 2017 and has suffered from neither cravings nor withdrawal symptoms. Eric immediately and completely changed his eating habits to a balanced, low-sodium diet and stopped taking all acetaminophen. In October 2017 his doctors switched Eric from the liver-damaging medication he had been on since 2011 and prescribed him to a safer, enzyme-based medication. He takes all his recommended medications on time every day. He has been attending addictions counselling. February 7, 2018 will mark his 6-month sobriety. Although Eric has made all of these positive changes in his life, the liver disease has progressed beyond the point of repair. Eric has done everything that has been recommended by his team of doctors and yet he is being refused a liver transplant.

Rejecting patients for liver transplants due to alcohol abuse is against Canada's human rights legislation. Substance abuse disorder is recognized as a disability under the Canadian Human Rights Act. The Act also states that all people, regardless of disability, shall have equal access to health care. Furthermore, there is no compelling medical evidence to suggest that alcoholic cirrhosis patients will "drink away their new liver". In fact, the data shows that fewer than 3% of alcoholics return to drinking each year after receiving a liver transplant. Requiring patients to wait 6 months and complete alcohol rehabilitation a moralistic judgement that violates patients' human rights.

The team of doctors at the University of Alberta's Aberhart Centre have denied Eric access to the life-saving liver transplant he requires. There is a biased policy in place that requires patients with alcoholic cirrhosis to have been alcohol-free for 6 months and to have completed an alcohol rehab program. Eric is currently fighting for his life in the ICU at Royal University Hospital in Saskatoon. The liver disease caused a spontaneous infection in his abdomen that became septic. It also caused his kidneys to shut down and is now on continuous dialysis. An alcohol rehab program is not possible at this time. Eric needs a liver transplant now.

We are therefore calling on the Liver Transplant Program at Aberhart Centre to  stop using biased, moralistic policies and accept Eric Whitbread as a liver transplant candidate immediately. We are also asking that the team of doctors at Royal University Hospital advocate for Eric Whitbread to be accepted as a liver transplant candidate at one of the 7 transplant programs in Canada.



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