Reason TV: Transplant Denied - How Medical Marijuana Policy Kills Patients

Norman Smith seemed to be making progress in his liver cancer recovery at Cedars-Sinai hospital in Los Angeles, Calif. He had some of the best doctors in the world, he was on a transplant list and he had completed a successful clinical trial that had his doctors dubbing him a "miracle man."

Then, his cancer returned and two months before he was would have received a transplant, he was de-listed for smoking marijuana prescribed by his oncologist at Cedars-Sinai. Now, if he doesn't receive a transplant, he will die.

"It's only my life that I'm fighting for," says Smith. "What do I have to hide? I have nothing to hide."

Smith's situation represents one of the first battles being fought over the place of medical marijuana in medicine and it has left him in limbo.

Cedars-Sinai declined interview requests but referred Reason TV to Peggy Stewart, a clinical social worker with UCLA's transplant program, which holds a similar position to Cedars-Sinai on medical marijuana.

"Marijuana is considered substance abuse," says Stewart. "The legality of it is really not an issue."

Stewart and Cedars-Sinai did say that transplant patients who consume marijuana put themselves at potential risk of infection from a mold found in cannabis called aspergillus.

But not everyone sees the mold as a potential threat.

"The truth is that Norman lives in Los Angeles and there are laboratories that he can take his medicine to and make sure that it doesn't have contaminants," says Stephanie Sherer of Americans for Safe Access , which works to break down political and legal barriers to medical cannabis.

Further, a 2009 study from the American Journal on Transplantation that looked at potential liver transplant candidates said that there wasn't a significant difference between marijuana users from marijuana non-users.

Sherer points out that Smith isn't alone, his problems are the reality for many patients caught in-between managing their pain and receiving a transplant.

"In our database at our office, we know of over two dozen patients that are going through this and unfortunately half of them have passed away because they did not receive these transplants," says Smith.

Music by audionautix.com and freeplaymusic.com

About 6:48 minutes. Written and produced by Paul Detrick. Camera by Alex Manning, Zach Weissmuller and Jim Epstein.

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  • Suki||

    If he could go out and buy one this would not be an issue.

  • Suki||

    The sad thing is (maybe incremental progress instead), it was easier for him to buy pot than it is for him to buy liver.

  • Universal Cancer for All||

    • Universal Pollution for all.
    • Universal Cancer for all.
    • Universal Birth Defects for all.
    • Universal Asthma for all.
    • No Universal Health Care for the victims; that would be evil.

    And thank you for KOCHsucking my fumes.

    In industrialized societies, cancer is second only to cardiovascular disease as a cause of death. But in ancient times, it was extremely rare. There is nothing in the natural environment that can cause cancer. So it has to be a man-made disease, down to POLLUTION and changes to our diet and lifestyle.

    ~Professor Rosalie David, at Manchester University's Faculty of Life Sciences

    "Cancer: an old disease, a new disease or something in between?"
    A. Rosalie David & Michael R. Zimmerman
    Nature Reviews Cancer 10, 728-733 (October 2010) | doi:10.1038/nrc2914

  • Anomalous||

    In ancient times, people usually didn't live long enough to get cancer.

  • *yawn* @ denial of harm||

    Take a breath from your KOCHsucking...so?

    "It has been suggested that the short lifespan of individuals in antiquity precluded the development of cancer."

    ~Cancer: an old disease, a new disease or something in between?
    A. Rosalie David & Michael R. Zimmerman
    Nature Reviews Cancer 10, 728-733 (October 2010) | doi:10.1038/nrc2914

  • Yakov Smirnoff||

    In Soviet Russia, cancer gets you.

  • ||

    Nonsense!! People have been dying of consumption for time eternal. Old and young, cancer is not new to this world in any way.
    Why have heart attacks increased? More people around to witness them, and better autopsies.

  • ||

    There is nothing in the natural environment that can cause cancer.

    Only shortened telomeres, & various pathways taking which a cell can evade apoptosis and as such become cancerous.

  • ||

    The arguement that modern chemicals result in human disease is quite well refuted by the increase in longevity. A classic example is the relationship proposed between saccharine and bladder cancer introduced in 1928 with an incidince of bladder cancer significantly higher than in 1975 when the paper accusing saccharine as the probable causative agent of bladder cancer.

  • Robert||

    Exactly. They're focusing on the wrong issue. What, did they throw the liver away instead of transplanting it? As long as there's rationing of some kind there, do you really care whether people get knocked down the list for smoking pot, dirty fingernails, or what?

  • ||

    Cedars-Sinai declined interview requests but referred Reason TV to Peggy Stewart, a clinical social worker with UCLA's transplant program, which holds a similar position to Cedars-Sinai on medical marijuana.

    "Marijuana is considered substance abuse," says Stewart. "The legality of it is really not an issue."

    The science is settled.

  • Rhywun||

    By "clinical social workers", no less. Oh well, another person to add to the list of those I hold personally responsible for Drug War death toll.

  • d||

    And by "clinical social workers" who, in addition to such questionable argumentation, drop linguistic gems like:

    "Russian *rowlette*"

    and

    "*similarily*"

    Holy fuck, that woman is stupid!

  • I hold personally responsible||

    How far do you want to push personal responsibility, city-Statist polluter?

  • ||

    Apparently, they have a rock star list that bypasses all of that fuss.

  • ||

    The law is settled by ignoring science. Face reality: most Amerians respect a law that makes sick people suffer in pain. The people that I know who are against legalizing marijuana don't want their kids hooked on drugs. Most of the intollerance in our country comes from those who are the most domesticated.

  • Capitalism profits by ignoring||

    • science
    • personal responsibility
    • morality and ethics

    In industrialized societies, cancer is second only to cardiovascular disease as a cause of death. But in ancient times, it was extremely rare. There is nothing in the natural environment that can cause cancer. So it has to be a man-made disease, down to POLLUTION and changes to our diet and lifestyle.

    ~Professor Rosalie David, at Manchester University's Faculty of Life Sciences

    "Cancer: an old disease, a new disease or something in between?"
    A. Rosalie David & Michael R. Zimmerman
    Nature Reviews Cancer 10, 728-733 (October 2010) | doi:10.1038/nrc2914

  • ||

    Well if it is aspergillus they are worried about then they should knock anyone who breathes off the transplant lists. People with compromised immune systems (like people who need transplants) are at minor risk from aspergillus, but it is widespread (it literally grows on trees!!! as well as just about everything which is or once was alive) and anyone who breathes might be exposed to it.

  • IceTrey||

    Aspergillus is the most common mold in the world. It is literally everywhere. Even your squeeky clean house is full of it. This policy is absurd based on the fact that you of course can eat cannabis.

  • sarcasmic||

    Use is abuse!

  • ||

    "Marijuana is considered substance abuse," says Stewart. "The legality of it is really not an issue."

    Do they ban patients from drinking alcohol, too? If not, then it really is about the legality.

    Note that their position is that any amount of pot smoking is "substance abuse." That doesn't sound like a clinical opinion, to me. That sounds like a legal conclusion.

  • sarcasmic||

    Unless you're a rock star you're not getting an new liver if you destroyed it with booze.

  • sounds real good||

    You can, but you have to jump through a lot of hoops. Most cirrhosis is caused by alcoholism, with Hepatitis a close second.

  • ||

    Unless you're a rock or soccer star you're not getting an new liver if you destroyed it with booze.

    See George Best.

  • Ice Nine ||

    Do they ban patients from drinking alcohol, too?

    A liver transplant patient? I promise you, they do.

  • sounds real good||

    Yes, they ban alcohol.

    The boards that control transplants are very independent state-by-state. I don't know if any allow MM.I recall a case in WA state that was reported here - a man was denied a transplant over legal MM. My sister, who lives in a southern state, is about to go into a 28 day inpatient rehab program so she can get on the list. She doesn't get MM since no southern states have it. She did smoke a little last summer when she was in intense pain from ascites (fluid build up in abdomen)that wasn't being treated properly. It showed up in her blood test in Sept. and she still isn't on the list. They made her to go to AA, but...she's not an alcoholic. She does have a history of drub abuse, however she feels that constantly rehashing it and listening to a bunch of alcoholics wax nostalgic about the good-old-bad-old days is depressing and bad for her mental health. Go figure.

  • ||

    Good point about liver transplant patients.

    In CA, isn't medpot prescribed by an actual licensed physician?

    Is the transplant nanny actually taking the position that actual licensed physicians are complicit in substance abuse whenever the prescribe medpot?

  • sounds real good||

    Yes, it is and yes, they are. The boards are independent entities and can set their own policies.

  • Raston Bot||

    They'd ban you if they could test your twinkie intake for gluttony. Donor lists are bloated and administrators face political pressure to prioritize angelic choir children. And if one of those Children of the Corn blond haired bowl-cut having kids dies and some 40-something pot smoker gets the organ, then that wealthy donor on the board fires their arse. At least that's what I learned from watching Scrubs.

  • BoscoH||

    Music by audionautix.com and freeplaymusic.com.

    I suppose LMFAO wouldn't set the right mood. But seriously, talk about the best reason in the world to be in favor of organ sales. Dollars do not make such silly value judgments.

  • ||

    That jsut does not make a lot of sense to me at all dude, I just dont get it.

    www.Gone-Anon.tk

  • ||

    "No dope-smoking if you want a liver transplant" is the rule. The patient chose to keep his old liver so he could still get high.

  • Menthols Washington||

    He was prescribed marijuana by his oncologist to managage pain. What was he supposed to think? If your doctor gives you something you may want to check out the side effects but how was he to know that they would boot him off the list? Your statement is, well, stupid.

    Acceptable, mainstream, painkillers have more negative effects than pot. Hell, Tylenol has more negative effects. Can someone please tell me why pot is still illigal.

  • ||

    The tobacco and alcohol industries have lots of money and effective lobbyists.

  • ||

    ""Marijuana is considered substance abuse," says Stewart. "The legality of it is really not an issue."

    Policies don't kill people.
    Drug warriors kill people.

  • Tonio||

    Peggy Stewart, I hope some day you're in need of a transplant that a potential donor google searches your name(*) and tells you "no." Because you're considered an asshole.

  • daveInAustin||

    This isn't a great example of the drug war killing people because the liver is going to go to someone else on the list. It's not getting thrown out.

  • RBS||

    So they guy who is going to die because he will not get the liver doesn't count?

  • ||

    Who says marijuana doesn't kill?

  • Christian Libertarian||

    You cosmostatists won't shut up about pot.
    Your rights come from GOD. If you don't believe in God you have no rights. Seeking pleasure from anything but God's love is against God's word which means you have no rights.
    Don't get me wrong i'm against drug laws. The only laws I believe in are God's laws!

  • ||

    If you don't believe in God you have no rights.

    Doesn't sound very libertarian to me.

  • Christian Libertarian||

    You cosmostatists have the same warped views on rights as liberals (probably because you are)

    Your rights come from GOD. If there is no god then where do your rights come from? Then they come from man and being ruled by man is not libertarian in the least.

    The state is a creation of man. The only laws that matter are GOD's laws, and God's laws prohibit drugs and alcohol.

  • Dekedin||

    I'm guessing you never read the part of turning water into wine, then?

  • Christian Libertarian||

    Jesus never did that. That's propaganda created by greedy Godless breweries because they know alcohol wouldn't exist in a truly Christian nation, just like the greedy Godless Koch brothers made up the "God loves gays" myth because they know they know certain petroleum-based lubricants wouldn't sold in a truly Christian nation.

  • sane person||

    Lolllllll

  • RBS||

    Laws are not rights. Also, you are confusing negative rights and positive rights. But you're probably a troll anyway.

  • Christian Libertarian||

    Trolling is for statist cosmotarians. I am a man of God. God doesn't tolerate dishonesty.

  • sounds real good||

    Based on the last comment, I'd say this person is certainly a troll.

    Actually, God might make a case for petroleum-based lubricants because they damage latex-based condoms, thus subverting their sinful purpose.

  • Another Phil||

    Your rights come from GOD. If you don't believe in God you have no rights.

    Sez you. Keep loudly asserting it though, that'll make it more believable.

  • Tulpa the White||

    We desperately need a SoCon troll here. You're doing God's work, CL.

  • Scott||

    This policy seems so bizarre (particularly the awkward defenses) that I suspect the hand of some agenda-driven federal agency being applied to the transplant program behind the scenes.

    "It would be a shame if anything were to happen to your funding, wouldn't it?"

  • ||

    Tough shit!! Shows you the consequences of your actions can be fatal. Think before you smoke dope. It is the same reason my buddy had to go for a risky surgery instead of a transplant. There are to many people living healthier to waste an organ the ones who aren't. Life is a bitch.

  • ||

    Shows you the beliefs of empowered bigots can be fatal. You might as well argue against the dangers of wearing yarmulkes. The patient's smoking marijuana did nothing to him damaging physically. It was the control freak's ideology that did the damage.

  • cynical||

    Wait, his doctor at the hospital prescribed medical MJ, then the hospital used that as an excuse to deny him a transplant? I smell a lawsuit.

  • ||

    classmate's mother brought home $18499 a month ago. she makes money on the laptop and got a $524600 home. All she did was get fortunate and put to work the clues made clear on this site Nuttyrich DOTcom

  • thinkingthought||

    does someone not know to properly upload a video that doesn't have music playing over voice? pretty basic

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