Dying Under the Influence –
July 18, 2018 – Dr. Elliot Tapper has treated a lot of patients, but this one stood out. “His whole body was yellow,” Tapper remembers. “He could hardly move. It was difficult for him to breathe, and he wasn’t eating anything.” The patient was suffering from chronic liver disease. After years of alcohol use, his liver had stopped filtering his blood. Bilirubin, a yellowish waste compound, was building up in his body and changing his skin color. Disturbing to Tapper, the man was only in his mid-30s – much younger than most liver disease patients. Tapper, a liver specialist and assistant professor of medicine at the University of Michigan Medical School, tried to get the patient to stop drinking. “We had long, tearful conversations,” Tapper says, “but he continued to struggle with alcohol addiction.” Since then, the young man’s condition has continued to deteriorate and Tapper is not optimistic about his chances of survival.