Thursday, August 6, 2009

Patient Denied Liver Transplant Due to Medical Marijuana Use

By Anna Boyd for EFlux Media

The University of Washington Medical Center denied 56-year-old Timothy Garon’s request for a transplant because he used medical marijuana for the relief of symptoms of hepatitis C.

The man, whose disease has brought him in the worst shape ever (his body is skeleton-like and his abdomen is swollen as if he were eight months pregnant), simply can’t understand why he was denied a place on the transplant waiting list.

“I’m not angry, I’m not mad, I’m just confused,” Garon said a few minutes after the hospital committee took the decision, the Associated Press reports.

Doctors say drug use and alcohol abuse are two factors they consider in deciding whether a patient can be enlisted for a transplant or not. The rule also applies to those who use medical marijuana to ease their pain under a doctor's supervision.

“Marijuana, unlike alcohol, has no direct effect on the liver. It is however a concern…in that it’s a potential indicator of an addictive personality,” Dr. Robert Sade, director of the Institute Values in Health Care at the Medical University of South Carolina, said, according to the same source.

“The concern is that patients who have been using it will not be able to stop,” Dr. Jorge Reyes, a liver transplant surgeon at the UW Medical Center, said.

The Virginia-based United Network for Organ Sharing, which supervises the nation’s transplant system, leaves hospitals to take decisions on their own, not interfering in their criteria for transplant candidates.

Under federal law, marijuana is illegal. Some hospitals automatically reject people who use “illicit substances” even if the states allow it. Others, instead gives patients a chance to reapply for a transplant if they stay clean for six months.

Garon, the lead singer for Nearly Dan, a Steely Dan cover-band, was arrested for growing marijuana in December. He was prescribed marijuana for nausea, abdominal pain and to stimulate his appetite by Seattle physician, Dr. Brad Roter who said he had no idea it would turn against his patient in case he needed a transplant.

According to pro-marijuana groups, there were several cases of such patients who were denied transplant because they used medical marijuana. Moreover, they cited at least two patient deaths in Oregon, California, since the mid-to-late ‘90s, when states began adopting medical marijuana laws.

1 comment:

  1. Hello,
    I am a patient who has just been told that I must test "clean" at least three times for Cannabis to get back on the OHSU Transplant program.
    I was given Hep C by a transfusion in the 80's. The DR.s had BAD blood and BAD Science on their side and now I am dieing from End Stage Liver Disease. If Science IS on their side this time then I would totally support the Dr.s . Most Doctors are indeed, silent heroes.To their credit I can return to the fold as long as I submit totally. They seem to prefer Opiates and believe that Crack Cocaine and Meth-Amphetamine are less damaging to my liver than Cannabis. ?????????? I did not believe my ears don't wish to be a junkie if I survive this!!! I was also told that I knew the rule and should not chance making them mad because their are so many who need transplants; more than the # of livers to go around. So my life is not very valuable?
    Who regulates these Doctors who hold my life at their pleasure? How can a Dr. arbitrarily and cavalierly issue DEATH SENTENCES and not be held accountable to anyone? For me this is REAL!!!! Two of my fellow patients have already died! Will I make it three.
    If I make them mad or violate the arbitrary Rules set by a DR. Un-questioned and his crew; I will be cast aside to die a horrible death, vomiting blood and loosing my mind. Yes it is stark and hard to imagine but it is my life. A death sentence for following the instructions of another DR?
    What gives them the right? HABIT!!!!
    Please help! Contact NORML, or other Medical Cannabis program and lets get some of the 25,000 Patients sitting in the OSHU and the Wash. Hospital's foyer.
    Let's see - 25,000 patients VS. maybe 10 Doctors without good science. . . . .
    Be respectful and yet Please; lets TEST their SCIENCE!
    Oh my! I hope they don't see this and recognize me - I would like to live.


Feel free to comment on anything you see and read here. This is an open forum.
Please keep it clean.