British Liver Trust launches national campaign to tackle liver disease stigma

Posted on: 9th August 2022

 Stamp out Stigma has been launched by the British Liver Trust to highlight and address the stigma faced by people with liver disease.

According to the British Liver Trust’s research, almost three-quarters of people living with liver disease have experienced stigma following their diagnosis.

The new research also revealed that:

  • More than a third of patients have hidden their diagnosis from friends and colleagues
  • 6 in 10 people with liver disease said stigma affected their work or career
  • A third of patients have been heard stigmatising comments such as “It’s your own fault” or “you should have looked after yourself better”

Often the negative attitudes harboured by people towards liver disease patients lead to feelings of isolation and loneliness, impacting their mental health.  Collectively the prejudice can contribute to late diagnosis of liver disease as patients avoid seeking help or support for fear of being judged.

Pamela Healy OBE, chief executive at the British Liver Trust, said: “It is heart-breaking to hear that so many people with liver disease, who are already dealing with a devastating diagnosis, have experienced negative attitudes which affect their sense of self-worth and mental health.

“People with any illness, whatever the cause, should be supported not judged.  If we can end the stigma faced by people with liver disease, we will ensure that more people come forward to get tested and treated at an early stage.”

Half of those affected by liver disease have also experienced stigma in a healthcare setting.

Professor Steve Ryder, medical advisor to the British Liver Trust, said: “Most liver diseases are preventable or treatable if caught early. Despite this we still see the majority of people currently diagnosed with cirrhosis at a very advanced stage when they develop liver failure. One of the main reasons for this late presentation is that people suffering from liver disease are stigmatised.

“Society judges people who may develop physical harm from factors associated with what are perceived as lifestyle choices such as being overweight or drinking too much alcohol. In reality, many people in the UK are at risk of developing liver disease and the stigma associated with liver diseases is a major factor in preventing people coming forward for both diagnosis and highly effective treatment.  As a nation we need to address liver related harm and destigmatising these disorders is a vital step in stopping unnecessary deaths and suffering.”

The Stamp out Stigma campaign aims to empower people with liver disease to challenge stigma, educate healthcare professionals and the public and raise awareness of the impact of stigma.

Dr Helen Jarvis said: “It is unacceptable that people living with, or worried about, liver disease feel they may face stigma from us as health care professionals. We must change this by openly inviting discussion with people around the risk factors and seeing and treating those with liver disease as we would anyone. Failing to challenge this stigma will contribute to a continuation of people failing to present to us with liver disease until they are extremely unwell, when treatments are less effective and death rates are tragically high.”

Pamela continues, “Over the years, we have seen transformations in the way many diseases are perceived in our culture and with a collective voice, we can start building long-lasting change in perceptions about liver disease.”

People are invited to support the campaign by adding their name here: Stamp out Stigma - British Liver Trust

If you  have faced stigma, we have help and advice here: Help and advice for dealing with stigma - British Liver Trust