Medical Marijuana User Denied Liver Transplant as Clock Winds Down

In a life-or-death catch-22 situation, Richard Hawthorne claims that smoking medical marijuana is helping him stay alive and deal with the severe side effects of the Hepatitis C medicine that he takes while waiting for a new liver. ABC7 reported that it is also the reason Stanford Hospital has taken him off the waiting list of potential liver transplant recipients.

Time is of the essence for Richard, since his doctors say that he has already lived longer then they had predicted he would given his condition. The suffering Stanford patient is being denied a transplant because of national standards that govern who receives donated organs. According to the hospital, "The national protocols include factors that may lead to disqualification, which include both use of drugs and alcohol."

Hawthorne is hoping that the hospital can change its rules because he insists that cannabis helps: "I sleep pretty well, a lot better. Cramping has gone down, almost completely away." Richard argues that he doesn't use it all the time: "I'm not an every day, going-out-and-getting-stoned type of guy. I don't get high during the day. I can't operate that way." 

Given Richard’s liver condition, probably a result of his intravenous drug use back in the 1990s, he has to maintain a clean and sober lifestyle to qualify for the transplant. Yet, Hawthorne reasons that giving up the pot has its downside. "I could be sitting around waiting for two, three years. In the meantime, my health is worsening because I'm not eating or getting a proper night's sleep," he said.

Breitbart News reached out to transplant surgeon Dr. Raymond Pollak who explained that "if the judgement of the Stanford transplant program is that the patient's use of marijuana has no medical indications based on the information they have, they may deny a transplant for fear of recidivism, or a concern that the patient may be at risk for graft loss because of non-compliance with post-transplant immune suppression and clinic follow-up visits. Thus, the best use would not have been made for this very scarce resource." 

Moreover, Dr. Pollak emphasized that decisions as to who receives transplants are made collectively: "Please be aware also that liver transplant groups are usually a heterogeneous mix of doctors, nurses, social workers, and often a lay person or prior liver recipient." The transplant surgeon added that "there may be other psycho-social factors (documented use of other substances) or medical reasons that preclude his candidacy for the time being."

According to Hepatitis Central, there are plausible arguments for both sides for using medical marijuana for liver transplant patients. Arguments for use suggest that marijuana can help individuals persevere through the drug therapy and can increase appetite, while the opposing arguments assert that users could put themselves at risk of damaging the liver further.


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