The man commonly regarded as the UK’s greatest living
footballer – one time Manchester United legend and former European Footballer
of the Year, George Best, is back in intensive care in a London
hospital, suffering from a severe kidney infection but responding to

The 59-year-old squandered his
prodigious talent through a battle with alcohol and in the years after his
retirement maintained a reckless and indulgent lifestyle of substance

His private life has read like a trashy novel with his many
affairs, violent episodes and binge drinking that ultimately led to a life-saving liver transplant in 2002, which created a huge
debate as to whether his self-inflicted poor health was deserving
of a transplant. For his part Best
uttered all the usual platitudes about how he would take this second chance to
change his errant ways, but he didn’t.
And if his liver is failing again, Best can
expect even less sympathy as to his suitability for a second transplant.

As The Independent reports today, his physician, Professor Roger Williams, said
he was not sure where the infection was located. “With an
infection, all the organs become involved, including the kidneys and liver, but
they are all beginning to work properly again. People fear the worst because it
is George Best, but there is no real cause for alarm.”

The question of sports stars abusing their bodies and then jumping
transplant queues poses an ethical dilemma in the medical world, with
the US also engaged in a Best-like debate with a number of its most
sports stars and transplants.

There was
the instance of one of America’s greatest ever baseball
players, New York Yankees idol Mickey Mantle, who, after years of alcoholism received
a liver transplant, only to discover he had terminal cancer. Another Yankees great Joe DiMaggio was
claimed to have only been put on a transplant list three days before he got a
lung transplant for his cancer – even though he was already too advanced for it
to make a difference.

Closer to home, former All Black star winger Jonah Lomu
received a kidney transplant following a long-running blood disorder; but
serious questions were asked about the transplant being put at risk if he started playing
again, which he is now doing. But at
least he didn’t jump a queue as the donation was made by a personal friend.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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