If I were chatting to a medical student who was thinking about specialising, I would strongly recommend that he or she consider going into liver transplant surgery. Now there’s an area that is only going to grow in the future.
I will now resist the temptation to make a Manto joke, noting instead how binge drinking is a topic that has become an area of great concern in the UK, the US and Australia. In South Africa, there are much bigger problems than teenagers getting wasted on Bacardi Breezers, but the ANCYL for one is very concerned about youth alcohol abuse, and the link between alcohol and violence is well documented. Something like 60% of South Africa’s road deaths are alcohol-related.
Booze, simply put, is bad. If it were invented today, it would be regarded with the same horror as tik and crack, but it has deep cultural roots and the backing of very powerful corporate interests, so it’s going nowhere.
On that basis alone, the outlook for liver transplants is good. What makes it even more exciting, however, is the fact that so many young women are binge drinking. The female lush is nothing new — look at a Hogarth print of gin lane to see all those 18th century chavettes, oblivious to their toddlers playing in the gutter — but overindulgence has never been so widespread, or cut across class lines quite so adroitly. In an era of clubs and alcopops (or AFBs, alcoholic fruit beverages, as they are known in the trade), it has become not just acceptable, but mandatory, for women looking for a good time to get trashed.
Alcohol has been blamed for the rise in crimes committed by young women in the UK. In Australia, an increase in taxes on alcopops was used by the Opposition to criticise Kevin Rudd’s government (the reasoning is that by making alcopops more expensive, the youth are switching to bottles of spirits and Coke — one litre Klippies, two litre Coke, three litre Ford here we come — and getting drunk anyway). This week, ABC1 carried a major expose of binge drinking by twenty-something professional types in Sydney, as well as the crowds that infest the clubs of Surfers Paradise.
The British (surprise surprise) lead in studies on the effects of alcohol on young women; now they’re seeing that liver damage that usually only manifests in middle to old age is already appearing in young women, and we can expect to see this in other societies where binge drinking by young women is widespread. As the decades progress and those women get older, all of that drinking is going to catch up with them, if it hasn’t already. We can look forward to an era when the liver transplant will be added to the boob job and the tummy tuck as a must-have procedure: the ultimate mummy makeover.
So, go forth, ye med students, and become liver experts. You’ll never be out of work.