A cancer patient in LA has been told that he’s no longer eligible for a liver transplant because he smokes Marijuana.Norman Smith, a liver cancer patient at Cedars-Sinai Hospital in Los Angeles, was on the hospital’s waiting list for a life saving liver transplant. To help deal with pain caused by the cancer and chemotherapy he was prescribed Marijuana by his oncologist, a legal and medically recognized treatment in California. However under the transplant program Marijuana is considered “substance abuse”, and Norman has been informed that he is no longer eligible for the new liver.
“Marijuana is considered substance abuse,” says Peggy Stewart, a clinical social worker with UCLA’s transplant program. “The legality of it is really not an issue.”
In other words what she’s implying is that although Marijuana has been legalized in the state for medicinal purposes, their policy is to simply ignore the science, something you’d think a leading LA hospital would be at the forefront of.
Perhaps revealing where her true allegiances lie, Smith explained: “there are other ways to treat your pain”, meaning there are pills that don’t do the job as well as Marijuana, but make profits for hospitals and large pharmaceutical companies.
In a demoralizing slap in the face, in order to get back on the waiting list Norman is now required to attend an Alcoholics Anonymous type program for pot, even though he doesn’t struggle with addiction. He is being treated as a deviant and hardcore drug addict, instead of a cancer patient alleviating his pain with a legal and prescribed remedy. Where the common sense is, nobody knows.
Now Norman’s chances of survival are “a long shot”.
The hospital’s excuse for labelling Norman a drug addict is that transplant patients who consume marijuana may put themselves at risk from a mould sometimes found in cannabis called aspergillus. Transplant patients have their immune systems deliberately repressed so they don’t reject the new organ. They claim in this state Normal is more susceptible to infection from the mould.
However aspergillus is a common contaminant of starchy foods (such as bread and potatoes), and grows on many plants and trees. It is highly aerobic and is found in almost all oxygen-rich environments . Is eating potatoes substance abuse as well?
“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.
Furthermore, 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.
For more on this story here is the Reason TV report: