Liver Transplant Centers Persist in Using Stigmatizing Terminology

A recent study conducted at Massachusetts General Hospital has found that many liver transplant center websites in the United States continue to use stigmatizing language when discussing alcohol use disorder (AUD) and alcohol-associated liver disease (ALD). Despite recommendations from medical societies to use non-stigmatizing language, terms such as “alcoholism” and “alcoholic” were prevalent on 88% of transplant center websites and 46% of addiction psychiatry websites. This use of stigmatizing language could potentially discourage patients from seeking treatment and hinder disease detection and intervention strategies.

Dr. Wei Zhang, a transplant hepatologist at Massachusetts General Hospital, expressed concern at the gap between professional recommendations and actual practice, as patients often rely on online resources for information. The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism and the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention both recommend the use of non-stigmatizing language when discussing alcohol-related issues. However, the study found that this language was not consistently implemented at an institutional level.

The study reviewed 114 liver transplant center websites and 104 addiction psychiatry websites at the same institutions. It found that stigmatizing language was used by 87.8% of transplant websites and 46.2% of addiction psychiatry websites. When discussing AUD-related terminology, stigmatizing language was used 79.2% of the time on transplant center websites, compared to 30.8% on addiction psychiatry websites. The study calls for hospitals to update their language in order to align with patient-first, non-stigmatizing approaches for better health outcomes.

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