Fw: A Patient’s Authorized Pot Use Could Block Access to Transplants

THEIR IS NO
JUSTIFICATION FOR THE WAY OUR GOVERNMENT
ABUSES THEIR POWERS TO
FORCE PEOPLE INTO SUBMISSION…
 
SMK

WHEN GOVERNMENTFAILSUS.COM
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—– Original Message —–

From: Cher
Sent: Sunday, April 27, 2008 1:29 PM
Subject: OPN: A Patient’s Authorized Pot Use Could Block Access to
Transplants

In Medical Marijuana States, A Patient’s Authorized Pot Use Could
Block
Access To Transplants

SEATTLE, April 26, 2008 – AP Wire & CBS
News

Timothy Garon’s face and arms are hauntingly skeletal, but the fluid

building up in his abdomen makes the 56-year-old musician look eight

months pregnant.

His liver, ravaged by hepatitis C, is failing.
Without a new one, his
doctors tell him, he will be dead in days.

But
Garon’s been refused a spot on the transplant list, largely
because he has
used marijuana, even though it was legally approved
for medical
reasons.

"I’m not angry, I’m not mad, I’m just confused," said Garon,
lying in
his hospital bed a few minutes after a doctor told him the hospital

transplant committee’s decision Thursday.

With the scarcity of
donated organs, transplant committees like the
one at the University of
Washington Medical Center use tough
standards, including whether the
candidate has other serious health
problems or is likely to drink or do
drugs.

And with cases like Garon’s, they also have to consider _ as a
dozen
states now have medical marijuana laws _ if using dope with a

doctor’s blessing should be held against a dying patient in need of a

transplant.

Most transplant centers struggle with the how to deal
with people who
have used marijuana, said Dr. Robert Sade, director of the
Institute
of Human Values in Health Care at the Medical University of South

Carolina.

"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," Sade said.

The Virginia-based United
Network for Organ Sharing, which oversees
the nation’s transplant system,
leaves it to individual hospitals to
develop criteria for transplant
candidates.

At some, people who use "illicit substances" _ including
medical
marijuana, even in states that allow it _ are automatically
rejected.
At others, such as the UCLA Medical Center, patients are given a

chance to reapply if they stay clean for six months. Marijuana is

illegal under federal law.

Garon believes he got hepatitis by sharing
needles with "speed
freaks" as a teenager. In recent years, he said, pot has
been the
only drug he’s used. In December, he was arrested for growing

marijuana.

Garon, who has been hospitalized or in hospice care for
two months
straight, said he turned to the university hospital after
Seattle’s
Harborview Medical Center told him he needed six months of
abstinence.

The university also denied him, but said it would reconsider
if he
enrolled in a 60-day drug-treatment program. This week, at the urging

of Garon’s lawyer, the university’s transplant team reconsidered
anyway,
but it stuck to its decision.

Dr. Brad Roter, the Seattle physician who
authorized Garon’s pot use
for nausea, abdominal pain and to stimulate his
appetite, said he did
not know it would be such a hurdle if Garon were to
need a transplant.

That’s typically the case, said Peggy Stewart, a
clinical social
worker on the liver transplant team at UCLA who has
researched the
issue. "There needs to be some kind of national eligibility

criteria," she said.

The patients "are trusting their physician to do
the right thing. The
physician prescribes marijuana, they take the
marijuana, and they are
shocked that this is now the end result," she
said.

No one tracks how many patients are denied transplants over medical

marijuana use.

Pro-marijuana groups have cited a handful of cases,
including at
least two patient deaths, in Oregon and California, since the
mid-to-
late 1990s, when states began adopting medical marijuana
laws.

Many doctors agree that using marijuana _ smoking it, especially _
is
out of the question post-transplant.

The drugs patients take to
help their bodies accept a new organ
increase the risk of aspergillosis, a
frequently fatal infection
caused by a common mold found in marijuana and
tobacco.

But there’s little information on whether using marijuana is a

problem before the transplant, said Dr. Emily Blumbrg, an infectious

disease specialist who works with transplant patients at the
University
of Pennsylvania Hospital.

Further complicating matters, Blumberg said, is
that some insurers
require proof of abstinence, such as drug tests, before
they’ll agree
to pay for transplants.

Dr. Jorge Reyes, a liver
transplant surgeon at the UW Medical Center,
said that while medical
marijuana use isn’t in itself a sign of
substance abuse, it must be
evaluated in the context of each patient.

"The concern is that patients
who have been using it will not be able
to stop," Reyes said.

Dale
Gieringer, state coordinator for the California chapter of
NORML, the
National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws,
scoffed at that
notion.

"Everyone agrees that marijuana is the least habit-forming of all
the
recreational drugs, including alcohol," Gieringer said. "And unlike a

lot of prescription medications, it’s nontoxic to the liver."

Reyes
and other UW officials declined to discuss Garon’s case.

But Reyes said
that in addition to medical concerns, transplant
committees _ which often
include surgeons, social workers, and
nutritionists _ must evaluate whether
patients have the support and
psychiatric health to cope with a complex
post-operative regimen for
the rest of their lives.

Garon, the lead
singer for Nearly Dan, a Steely Dan cover-band,
remains charged with
manufacturing weed. He insists he was following
the state law, which limits
patients to a "60-day supply" but doesn’t
define that amount.

"He’s
just a fantastic musician, and he’s a great guy," said his
girlfriend, Liesa
Bueno. "I wish there was something we could do
legally. … I’m going to
miss him terribly if he passes."

United Nework for Organ Sharing: http://www.unos.org

Garon performing
his song "Goodbye Baby":
http://www.youtube.com/watch?vUJDihYn_fJA


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