Case study 2.1

Read Ken’s story from the beginning of the chapter. Consider the importance of empathy, dignity and respect in Ken’s battle with liver cirrhosis. What part did honesty play in his recovery?

Ken makes it clear in his testimony that he values plain speaking, and honesty. He has little time for sympathy from healthcare staff, which he would likely find suspect anyway: A common attitude among staff towards someone suffering with alcoholic liver disease is that they’ve brought it upon themselves, and, whether this is openly voiced or not, Ken likely recognises this prevalent attitude and/or considers this to be true of himself. (Over half of cirrhosis cases worldwide are not caused by alcohol misuse, but rather by various strains of hepatitis; Perz 2006).

But that’s not to say that Ken wants healthcare staff to be judgemental. Instead, he wants them to see him as a person, with normal human weaknesses, who has got into severe difficulties. He now wants to find a way out and is determined to build a new life. A candid approach works well with Ken, but not too candid. Humour also helps ease the situation for him.

Ken was one of the lucky ones. After a couple of years of waiting, enduring fortnightly ascetic drains, and nearly dying a few times, he received a successful liver transplant. He frequently visits the hospital unit where he was supported and cared for before his transplant, to keep in touch with the nurses, and provide support to other patients. He knows that not all of them will be so fortunate.