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SCIENCE

This week : Who gets to grow old ?

Text by Eve IRVINE

Latest update : 2009-08-03

In the UK a 22 year old death raises the debate on organ transplants and HEALTH looks at how life expectancy changes depending on whom you are and where you live.

The death of Gary Reinbach triggered a debate in the UK. He started drinking at 13 and 9 years later he was hospitalized with alcohol induced liver failure.

 

Gary Reinbach and his family were told that unless he could prove that he could live alcohol-free in the community for six months he could not qualify for a donor organ - but he was too sick to leave hospital.

 

They felt the treatment he received was unfair but Professor Eric Chemla tells HEALTH that with 9000 people on the waiting list for organs and just 2500 a year that are made available, Gary’s treatment was normal.

 

Of course alcohol abuse is a scourge common across all continents, yet it hits perhaps hardest in Russia. According to a recent report Russian's currently consume about twice the global average of alcohol and on average, 30,000 people die from alcohol poisoning in Russia each year.

 

A report by The Lancet medical journal last month said alcohol-related diseases caused around half of all deaths of Russians between the ages of 15 and 54.

 

According to the most recent U.N. National Human Development Report on Russia, males born in Russia in 2006 could only expect to live to just over 60 years. By comparison, the average western European man could expect to live to be 77, about 17 years longer than his Russian counterpart.

 

But overall across our world life expectancy is growing with the number of people over 65 look set to double within the next 30 years according to a report this month from the American Census Bureau.

 

The Influenza epidemic of 1918 afflicted over 25 percent of the U.S. population, and within the year had brought life expectancy there down by 12 years. There is as yet no reason to believe that the new flu, Influenza A will have the same power over us but the WHO believes that some 2 billion of us will get it at some stage over the next two years. Researchers are rushing to validate a vaccine; HEALTH looks at how soon a new flu shot will be available.

 

Date created : 2009-07-31

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