Ruminations

Blog dedicated primarily to randomly selected news items; comments reflecting personal perceptions

Monday, September 25, 2017

Insect Abundance In Steep Decline

"Insect numbers are way down. It's a little under the radar from the public perspective, but it's really high on the radar in terms of research."
Jeff Skevington, entomologist, Agriculture Canada

"It's unfortunately a little bit informal in terms of measurements [bug census]."
"Like, 'How pasted did your windshield get?' is not a normal scientific measurement. But it is something that I think many people have noticed."
"The general trend is something I myself have noticed and thought about on many occasions."
"It's a big deal, right? When you think about this it sounds kind of nuts, but the number of insects splattering on your windshield is a really good indication of just how abundant life is in the environment."
"It's anecdotal, but if it's true there seems to be a lot less life out there than there used to be. And that is not something we should be ignoring."
Jeremy Kerr, ecologist, entomologist, University of Ottawa

"Every spring since 1989, entomologists have set up tents in the meadows and woodlands of the Orbroicher Bruch nature reserve and 87 other areas in the western German state of North Rhine-Westphalia. The tents act as insect traps and enable the scientists to calculate how many bugs live in an area over a full summer period. Recently, researchers presented the results of their work to parliamentarians from the German Bundestag, and the findings were alarming: The average biomass of insects caught between May and October has steadily decreased from 1.6 kilograms (3.5 pounds) per trap in 1989 to just 300 grams (10.6 ounces) in 2014."
"The decline is dramatic and depressing and it affects all kinds of insects, including butterflies, wild bees, and hoverflies,” says Martin Sorg, an entomologist from the Krefeld Entomological Association involved in running the monitoring project."
Fireflies, like these in a forest in the Netherlands, have disappeared from some areas in North America and Europe where they were once abundant. PAUL VAN HOOF/MINDEN PICTURES






Hover flies, often mistaken for bees or wasps, are important pollinators. Their numbers have plummeted in nature reserves in Germany. JEF MEUL/NIS/MINDEN PICTURES/NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC CREATIVE





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Sunday, September 24, 2017

Take Your Choice: Chick Peas (good) or Beef (bad!)

"I can understand -- you have people saying, 'What about the family farm? Well, to be honest, if somebody says that to you, have some sympathy also for the Maritimers. Newfoundlanders had to leave, or think of something else [to replace fishing when cod stocks plummeted]."
"And anybody who says they've got a different answer [than moving to plant-based diets] is, I think, deceiving himself or herself."
"Are these people [from areas of the world where milk and beef are not part of their daily diet] any worse for it in their native situation? No, but when they come to us [emigrate to North America] they get sick."
"The question you should ask is, 'Is the diet they're recommending going to be dangerous?' No, I think it's going to have great benefits."
David Jenkins, nutrition scientist, professor, departments of nutritional sciences and medicine, University of Toronto
"The evidence for saturated fat has been very weak. What we show 'in his team's nutritional study] is going to low levels [of saturated fat] can actually be harmful."
Andrew Mente, McMaster University co-author PURE trial

"So far, Health Canada hasn't revealed what evidence they used to make that statement [suggesting a shift to a high proportion of plant-based foods], so I think we're all wondering."
"I think they really need to state the rationale for the emphasis on plant-based sources of protein, and have us understand how they linked that to diet-related disease."
"It's kind of wide open."
Stephanie Atkinson, professor, department of pediatrics, McMaster University

"Let's just say there is potential for either real or perceived conflict of interest for those sorts of reports [that fibre-rich foods decrease colorectal cancer risk]."
"In reality, in my mind this is not very different than what our existing guidance is. And even there we're recommending people go with meat alternatives."
"We have for a long time been talking about very quite small amounts of animal food in the diet to start with."
"[People would err in assuming] that we are saying, 'Have no dairy, have no meat."
Hasan Hutchinson, director general, office of nutrition policy and promotion, Health Canada
Sources suggest the new Canada food guide could lean more vegan than omnivore, the first major change to the guide in a decade. Karpenkov Denis/Getty images

In Canada's traditional food guide issued by Health Canada, there has always been a strong emphasis on dairy products helping to constitute a healthy and nutritional diet, alongside fruits, vegetables and protein from animal products and legumes. Now preparing to issue an updated food guide around the turn of the year into 2018, the Dairy Farmers of Canada have fixated on the possibility that "milk and alternatives" will be absent in the new guide. A change that Dr. Jenkins, himself a vegan, finds reasons to celebrate.

Animal-rights activists are ecstatic at the prospect of Health Canada's new, improved food guide marginalizing the consumption of meat. Criticism of Health Canada's proposed new changes that were hinted at when it released its "guiding principles" for the reworked food rules are coming from all directions. In its defence, Health Canada assures its critics that it hasn't and will not commit to recommending animal-based products be cut out altogether. But greenhouse-gas emissions and soil and water degradation improvements do play a role.

It will recommend a shift to plant-based foods representing a much higher proportion of the food eaten by Canadians. It will not recommend, it says reassuringly, cutting meat out of one's daily diet altogether; just that it be eaten far less frequently and with a conscious approach. Less red meat (beef, pork, lamb and goat) and replacing saturated fat-containing cream, high fat cheese, butter, etc. To consider replacements such as nuts, seeds, avocados.

Nuts, seeds and avocados can be good sources of omega 3 fatty acids. morisfoto/Getty images

Dr. Mente of McMaster University's Prospective Urban Rural Epidemiology trial study found a high intake of fat protected people from early deaths, and he is not enamoured of the approach that Health Canada is preparing for, in issuing its new recommendations; less than 10 percent of saturated fat intake, when Dr. Mente's trial found 35 percent intake to be ideal. That same study also found a moderate intake of fruits, vegetables and legumes was ideal, not the emphasis that Health Canada is placing on increasing that intake.

Health Canada's Hasan Hutchinson pointed to evidence that dietary patterns such as those modelled after the Mediterranean diet emphasizing vegetables, fruits, whole grains, legumes, nuts and fish and less red meat; refined grains and sugars to be linked with lower risks of cardiovascular disease. And according to Dr. Jenkins, who is also a scientist at St. Michael's Hospital, those few studies that have been carried out in nutrition support moving to an increased reliance on plant-based diets.

He points to the controlled research of the 2013 PREDIMED study reporting that supplementing the Mediterranean diet with extra-virgin olive oil or nuts had the result of a 30 percent reduction in risk of cardiovascular disease, in comparison with the results of a low-fat diet. A finding that the more recent study under the aegis of McMaster University contradicted.

Confused yet?

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Saturday, September 23, 2017

Humanizing Computers

"[AI has the potential to] free humanity from repetitive mental drudgery."
"Life is shockingly short. [With an estimated 27,000 days from birth to death] I don't want to waste that many days."
"It seemed really amazing that you could write a few lines of code and have it [a computer 'neural network'] learn to do interesting things."
"I wish we knew how children [or even a pet dog] learns. None of us today know how to get computers to learn with the speed and flexibility of a child."
Andrew Ng, artificial intelligence specialist, Palo Alto, California   

"Several different people suggested using GPUs [to formulate an AI neural network]."
"[However, closely following the work by Andrew Ng, the 41-year-old computer scientist] was what convinced me [to use his technique]."
Geoffrey Hinton, computer scientist, University of Toronto
The team at University of Toronto led by computer scientist Geoffrey Hinton made use of a neural network to enable them to win the ImageNet competition in 2012, a prestigious AI award. Hinton credits following Andrew Ng's work and identifying it as a platform from which his own research could be usefully based with his success. Credit overall, however, can be given to Mr. Ng for the rise of artificial intelligence as the wave of the future.

Without leaning on marketing, 100,000 people signed up for Mr. Ng's "Machine Learning" course leading Stanford's online learning program in 2011. The online-learning startup Coursera was co-founded another year on. And now Mr. Ng is preparing to launch deeplearning.ai, producing AI-training courses.  Mr. Ng still teaches at Stanford University and at the same time finds the opportunity to work within private industry.

He has led teams that now are capable of creating self-learning computer programs, touching hundreds of millions of people, inclusive of touch-screen keyboards that predict what the users may want to say next. He trained computers to recognize cats in YouTube videos without first informing them what cats were, as a way to lead the machines to learn, unsupervised. He adopted graphics chips meant for video games to artificial intelligence, revolutionizing the field.

Close to two million people globally have taken part in Ng's online course on machine learning to fulfill his focus on teaching the coming generation of AI specialists how to teach machines. He never downplays the difficulties involved in understanding the concepts behind his vision. By the age of six, Ng had learned coding from his father, a medical doctor with a mind to program a computer to use data to diagnose patients.

By age 16 Andrew had written a program to calculate trigonometric functions such as 'sine and cosine' with the use of a 'neural network', the core computing engine of artificial intelligence taking its cue from the human brain. Once he had graduated high school in Singapore, he gained experience at Carnegie Mellon, MIT and Berkeley, finally taking up academic residence as a professor of computer sciences at Stanford University where he taught robotic helicopters aerobatics.

One of Ng's doctoral students, himself now a computer scientist at Berkeley, recalls having once crashed a costly helicopter drone, only to see his supervisor Ng minimize its impact: "Andrew was always like, 'If these things are too simple, everybody else could do them." So Andrew Ng continued to do pioneering AI work that no one else could do; finding a new way to supercharge neural networks with chips used in video-game machines.

Whereas previously computer scientists had relied on general-purpose processors such as Intel chips that operate many PCs, it's recognized that those chips are able to handle a few computing tasks simultaneously at high speed, while neural networks perform more expeditiously if they can run thousands of calculations simultaneously, a task suited to a different chip class, GPUs; graphics processing units.

When Ng's Stanford team began publishing papers on their technique using Nividia's GPUs for general use beyond videos a year later, it was to point out that they had succeeded in speeding up machine learning by up to 70 times with this new technique. Typically, Ng initiates a program, brings it to its conclusion, and when it's up and running leaves it to others he has trained to take it forward.

"Then you go, 'Great. It's thriving with or without me", he says.

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An example from the new Deep Learning specialization on Coursera -- Coursera webpage

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Friday, September 22, 2017

Business As Usual

"There could have been ways to have more green space and more green infrastructure over the years, and it just didn't work that way, because it was fast and furious."
"It's been known for years how to do it. It just costs the developers more money to do it that way."
"And so the building just went rampant, and there weren't many controls. It was like the Wild West, and you just built housing subdivision after housing subdivision up close to the bayous, up close to the channels."
Dr. Phil Bedient, professor of Engineering in Civil and Environmental Engineering , Rice University, Houston

"If you put the kind of super-strict planning shackles on Houston, that would be the way to kill it."
"Why would you live in a hot, humid, flat space if it was expensive?"
Joel Kotkin, urban theorist

"Houston will accept anybody who's got hustle -- it respects energy more than any place."
"Houston is a very resilient city, and it will overcome."
Larry McMurtry, Texas writer
Matt Finn reports from Houston
Bright Cove, Houston, Foxnews.com

In other words, it will be business as usual for Houston now that the inconvenience of a massive flooding event thanks to a one-in-a-500-years hurricane has come and passed. Of course, equally inconvenient is the fact that environmentalists warn that these unique and deadly hurricanes are on track to become more common, more numerous, and places like Houston that faced up to nature's wrath, with most of its natural surroundings devised by nature to protect the geography from flooding have been severely compromised by gung-ho building.

The city itself was the brainchild of speculators in real estate from New York. And since Houston was chosen as a site for a city that would evolve to an energy powerhouse in the 1830s, homes and businesses have routinely flooded. Attempts to drain the swampy land failed to protect its residents, the floods just kept coming in, one after another. In Houston's first one hundred years of existence it has coped with no fewer than 16 major floods. But none of that kept Houston from becoming a flourishing metropolis, the centre of the petroleum industry in the United States.

It was from Houston that the U.S. Space Agency first sent humankind to visit the moon. It is where the world's largest medical center has been established. No fewer than 145 languages are spoken in the city, as a teeming melting pot model of humanity on display, live and energetic and bursting with pride. Of course on the way to achieving all of this, as the city's population grew so did its need to push nature around, to claim for human habitation and corporate business areas intended by nature to absorb extravagant amounts of water from storms to protect the mainland.

Without the municipal authority agreeing that there was no need to regulate the environment, much less to place restraints through onerous building code regulations that would slow down industry, development and the growing population base requiring places to live, the result has been that it isn't dreadfully expensive to afford a  house in Houston. Because homes were developed on the cheap, on the very wetlands and prairies that were meant to remain as the natural sponges nature had intended them to be.

The irony cannot be escaped that it is the industry that made Houston the power house it is, that has been identified as the major contributor to the pollution that threatens to incite those overwhelmingly dangerous storms. Houston itself is the unlikeliest of natural environments to host a growing mega-city of aggressive enterprise. Throughout its inner geography it is burdened with the presence of slow-moving bayous where clay soils fail to absorb excess water. During Hurricane Harvey close to 1,400 millimeters of rain fell; while the average annual rainfall in Houston registers about 1,200 millimeters.
Rosenberg Police Department -- Twitter

The city had decided it would control stormwater by directing the runoff to the Gulf of Mexico, and to that end two key bayous were channeled by conversion to concrete culverts, and a third one widened. Houston must have felt it had accomplished its due diligence in a massive engineering network of 1,400 channels totalling 4,000 kilometers, built for storm runoff to be directed out of the city and funnelled down to the sea. Thus assured, city planners felt free to allow building to run rampant.

Then came the realization that such large rainfalls couldn't, after all, be  handled by the system devised, since green space that might have absorbed all that extra water falling during a big storm had been paved with parking lots, houses, churches and malls. An initiative undertaken in 2010 to improve roads and renew the drainage system represented a major financing effort necessitating new taxes. Raising taxes is singularly unpopular anywhere, particularly when it is paired with a recommendation that homeowners living in flood plains return the land to green space through government buy-outs.

The result of which, concerns many planners; that with stricter regulations on building codes the momentum that has always inspired Houston to grow as it wished, and unregulated, will result in houses no longer being as affordable, and thus attractive to lure people to live and work in Houston, in its signature industry.

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Thursday, September 21, 2017

Alerts and Reactions

"There are some pretty bizarre theories out there, such as the idea that fluoride is being used to sedate the population."
"I worry that this study -- which the authors note should be replicated, and they call for further analysis and research -- will be presented as definitive. It is not."
Tim Caulfield, health policy researcher, University of Alberta

"[In Mexico], not many people drink tap water. [Intake of fluorides takes place through fluoridation of salt.]"
"[Still], the urinary fluoride levels of these [Mexican] women were definitely not sky high."
"There still may be a level of fluoride exposure among both pregnant women and everybody else that can still preserve the beneficial effects on tooth decay, while avoiding any effects on intelligence [in the developing fetus]." 
"This is a very rigorous epidemiology study. You just can't deny it. It's directly related to whether fluoride is a risk for the neurodevelopment of children. So, to say it has no relevance to the folks in the U.S. seems disingenuous."
Dr. Howard Hu, principal investigator, dean, Dalla Lana School of Public Health, Toronto

"[The study's findings] are not applicable [to the United States] because it's not known how the subjects of the study ingested the fluoride -- whether through salt, water or both -- no conclusions can be drawn regarding the effects of community water fluoridation in the U.S."
American Dental Association statement

U of T research

Since fluoridation of the public potable water supply became a staple health intervention many decades ago when research showed that fluoride was hugely effective in protecting against dental caries, there have been reactions from the public, claiming that general fluoridation had deleterious effects, and some municipalities, sensitive to public criticism, have taken steps to reverse the procedure, no longer fluoridating the water supply in their jurisdictions.

Across Canada most cities remain devoted to fluoridation; Ottawa, Edmonton and Toronto, for example. In other cities, such as Calgary, Waterloo and Windsor, fluoridation is no longer used in those municipalities' systems. Opponents of fluoridation allow their imaginations to run amok, claiming among other things that fluoridation is responsible for an proliferation of heart disease, cancer, birth defects, kidney problems, goiters, ulcers, anemia and spontaneous abortions.

"However, these associations are not supported by the scientific literature", researchers from the University of Guelph concluded in a 2014 evidence review under the imprimatur of the National Collaborating Centre for Environmental Health. Now, however, with the publication of the first study of its kind and size to explore the issue of fluoride exposure and its effects on stages of brain development by researchers from the University of Toronto, the issue has been brought back to life.

Data from 287 mother-child pairs in Mexico City were analyzed by the Toronto researchers from 1994 to 2005 when pregnant women were recruited for a study that took in their children as well at ages six to twelve. Levels of fluoride in urine were examined to find how children were seen to score on intelligence and neurocognitive function tests at age four and then once more between ages six and twelve. For every 0.5 milligrams-per-litre increase in mother's urinary fluoride levels beyond 0.8 mg/l, children scored 2.5 to three points lower on IQ tests.

That the children's own urinary fluoride levels measured at the times of testing, appeared not to register a significant effect, appeared to suggest that whatever effect fluoride could have on brain development occurred while in the womb. Most fluoride exposure in both Canada and the United States results from drinking water being fluoridated in the prevention of cavities, as well as fluoride manufactured right into toothpaste.

There were adjustments made in reaching conclusions based on association, inclusive of the baby's weight at birth, whether the mother smoked, intelligence quotient, socioeconomic conditions, and possible exposure to lead. The Mexican study verified that the mothers on average had 0.90 milligrams-per-litre of fluoride in their urine, a number considered to represent the "general range of exposures" comparable to other populations.

On the other hand, a 2012-2013 survey taken in Canada pointed out mean urinary fluoride levels were roughly 0.43 milligrams-per-litre, representing about 50 percent of the Mexican levels. The Toronto research team took pains to emphasize that their findings, while important, require confirmation in similar studies of other populations. According to Dr. Hu, direct comparisons with women in the United States or Canada face difficulties, reflecting the fact that there have been no large population studies of maternal urinary fluoride loads.
In Canada and the U.S., most fluoride exposure comes from the fluoridation of drinking water to prevent cavities, and fluoride in toothpaste and other dental products.  Getty Images


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Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Steer Clear!

"Occasionally, floating ant masses are encountered even indoors in flooded structures."
"Cuffed gloves, rain gear, and rubber boots help prevent the ants from reaching the skin. If they do, they will bite and sting. Remove them imme­diately by rubbing them off. If submerged, ants will cling to the skin and even a high-pressure water spray may not dislodge them. However, a spray made of diluted biodegradable dish­washing liquid may help immobilize and drown them."
Texas A&M Agrilife Extension specialist Paul Nester
Al Key/The Denton Record-Chronicle via AP

"If the water rises, they kind of all grab a hold of each other, and they can do this for several days, until they reach higher ground."
"If one of those rafts comes in contact with you, or you try to break it apart, it will likely disperse and crawl up you."
Clemson University entomologist, Tim Davis

A swarm of fire ants cling to a chain link fence and floating debris Tuesday Sept. 7, 2004 in Lithia, Fla., after the Alafia river overflowed her banks when the remnents of Hurricane Francis pass through the area on Monday. Many of the residents attempting to leave their flooded homes were stung by the ants.
Waiting out the water. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara)
"They spread out and hook their legs and feet together so they can form a tangled mass."
The fire ant rafts in the Houston area do pose “a definite threat [to anyone in the water],”
"If you’re walking around water and one of these rafts bumps onto you, chances are [the ants] are going to crawl up on you. You’re drier than they are."
"They’re just really unpleasant creatures."
Justin Schmidt, entomologist, University of Arizona

"You protect yourself by avoiding them, not by messing with them. They don't come to attack you. They're just passively floating along. It's a matter of being just intelligent and evasive."
"You won't feel anything for a minute. What they are doing is mustering."
"You might feel tickling, and then suddenly they are latching on so they can drag that stinger in."
"Once one of them stings it lets off a pheromone, and that makes everybody sting at once. It is like you are stepping into fire."
Larry Gilbert, professor, integrated biology, University of Texas,Austin
Houston residents had more to put up with than just the severe flooding that resulted when Hurricane Harvey struck and transformed highways into rivers, flooded homes and commercial buildings and generally made life pretty miserable. The city, originally built on a floodplain, has suffered an ongoing series of floods and will continue to, partly because nature's balance in the creation of absorptive wetlands have been paved over and partly because its proximity to the ocean invites these floods during times of natural stressors like hurricanes.

Not only were fish swimming about where they normally are never seen, including in people's homes, but alligators too made their presence known along the newly-created 'rivers' of floodwaters. On the other hand, strange mounds and floating rafts were also to be seen in the floodwaters, a deep rust-coloured mass, and curious to behold, comprised of thousands of fire ants, clinging together in a bid for self-preservation that overtakes the little beasts when threatening conditions arise and their primitive collective memory kicks in.

Once their underground tunnel infrastructure became flooded, they gathered and linked claws, clinging in massive rafts and balls, floating, spinning in the current of floodwaters. Nature has bestowed a waterproofed armor on their bodies to repel water and as they drifted in their teeming clumps they helped, as The Houston Chronicle wrote, create a "river full of nightmares", as in: if the alligators won't get you, the fireants might. "Those bites itch for days", wrote a medical writer for The Chronicle, of his experience of stepping on a mass of fire ants that "tore my left ankle/foot up".

Originating in South America, the fireants adapted in the wetlands of Brazil to survival in wetland floodplains there. Once they moved into the United States they adapted there too, in the southeastern region. First aid, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, takes the use of an epinephrine pen or antihistamines, since those who are allergic to insect bites stand the risk of lethal reactions. Disturbed, the ants are aggressive, attaching by their jaws to humans then injecting a venom that burns and develops fluid-filled pustules.

Subjected to long periods of disturbance such as the floods in Houston, an ant cluster reacts in fluid movements; if a small object is dropped into a mound of the insects the group simply reforms around the object, carrying it along with them. Their consistency can be wobbly resembling jelly, or it can flow like thick syrup. Connecting with the legs they create a springy network, repelling liquid. "They weave into a waterproof fabric", described David Hu, whose specialty is the study of fireants at Georgia Tech.

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Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Life, Liberty and Security of the Person

"[The goal is to] determine if there is an evidence-based basis to change the criteria."
"In the interim, it is important for all Ontarians to know that the listing criteria for liver transplants remain unchanged."
Jennifer Long, Trillium Gift of Life Network

"It was devastating for me to lose my husband. Once I realized what happened to him, I felt it was time to create some change in the system."
“They are heartbreaking [emails she has received from families awaiting organ transplants]. There was a mom who made it to five months and three weeks in April, and because of that last week that she had to wait, she died."
"I'm very proud that up to 97 or 98 people will get the opportunity to have a new life. And I'm very hopeful the practice will continue."
Debra Selkirk, whose husband Mark died in 2010 after being refused a liver transplant
Mark and Debra Selkirk
Debra Selkirk believes that her husband Mark could be alive today, if he’d had a liver transplant in 2010  CTV News

Debra Selkirk was devastated, but also determined after the death of her husband who was denied a liver transplant as an alcoholic under the rules demanding that to qualify for a transplant a patient had to be verifiably free of alcohol consumption for six months prior to surgery. Ms. Selkirk's husband Mark, who struggled with alcoholism didn't have six months to spare before emergency surgery, and so he died two weeks after he was diagnosed with advanced alcoholic hepatitis.

Mark's wife Debra was identified as a match as a potential liver donor - for part of her liver to be given to her husband to save his life. Other members of their family were also prepared to surrender part of their livers so that Mark could be saved. They were assured by doctors that a transplant could restore his lifeline. Toronto's University Health Network declined to operate on Mark nonetheless; he was still required to be dry for a six-month period before they would agree to surgery.

Statistics Canada estimates that over 1,500 people die on an annual basis as a result of alcoholic liver disease. Canada is certainly not alone in requiring that people whose liver disease developed as a consequence of alcohol intake be required to prove sobriety resulting from spurning alcohol for a six-month period on the obvious premise that their addiction was the cause of their disease. Society in general in most countries accept that people are themselves responsible for the choices they make in life and any consequences that arise from free choice.

The agency that is responsible for the Province of Ontario's transplant system, the Trillium Foundation, uses the six-month abstinence rule as a worldwide requirement settled upon for a number of reasons, one of which is that a period of abstinence might for some people, obviate the need for a transplant, and of course the scarcity of organs for transplantation might be seen as a reason to deny an alcoholic an organ when there are such long wait lists for people desperate to receive one. As a matter of popular judgement, people might be less inclined to underwrite organ donation, in addition.

Some hospitals in the United States and Europe have operated projects to alter eligibility on a trial basis for people diagnosed with alcoholic liver disease, minus the provision for sobriety for a previous six-month period. Now, resulting from Debra Selkirk's unswerving determination to alter the situation to give alcoholics suffering from liver failure the same transplant opportunities as others, the Trillium Gift of Life has agreed to a pilot project to make such patients eligible for transplant.

Over a three year period, the provincial agency anticipates that close to one hundred patients with alcohol-related liver disease will be provided with organ transplants. Recent evidence has helped to persuade the authorities that patients with alcoholic liver-disease even without the half-year of sobriety rule, tend to share a positive outcome after surgery, just as others do. At the same time the pressure of organ scarcity for transplants will suffer increased wait times with the inclusion of these patients is recognized.

In a persuasive affidavit, a series of studies concluding that alcoholic-liver disease patients recover well with their transplant organs, rarely turning back to heavy drinking, Dr. John Fung, chief of transplant surgery at the University of Chicago, also as a member of the U.S. government's advisory panel on transplantation, succeeded in encouraging second thoughts on the standard six-month wait for alcoholics suffering alcohol-related liver damage.

Four thousand liver transplants were studied and the resulting conclusion was that as many or more alcoholic-liver patients survived five years post-surgery with an organ transplant, as others who weren't tainted by alcoholism prior to surgery. So while Trillium is not prepared to abolish the six-month rule entirely yet, it does agree that recent evidence is suggestive of alcohol liver-disease patients faring well, half-year sobriety aside.

"Debra is one of the most amazing and dogged people I have ever encountered. She has managed to move the needle on this issue. It just needs to be moved further", stated the lawyer who represented Ms. Selkirk's 2015 constitutional challenge that argued the six-month sobriety policy stood in violation of Canada's constitutional rights to equal treatment, to life, liberty and security of the person.

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