Death Sentence for Marijuana

By Panthers007 · Apr 27, 2008 · ·
  1. Panthers007
    Marijuana Patient Can't Get A Transplant
    In Medical Marijuana States, A Patient's Authorized Pot Use Could Block Access To Transplants

    SEATTLE, April 26, 2008

    Tim Garon lies in his hospital bed, Thursday, April 17, 2008, in Seattle. Garon was refused a spot on the transplant list for a new liver, largely because he has used marijuana, even though it was legally approved for medical reasons. (AP Photo)

    (AP) 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.

    I'm not angry, I'm not mad, I'm just confused.
    Timothy Garon, A Medical Marijuana Patient Who Was Refused A Liver Transplant
    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."


    On the Net:

    United Nework for Organ Sharing:

    Garon performing his song "Goodbye Baby":

    Share This Article


  1. chinpokomaster
    Kinda makes you scared to ever tell any health professionals about drugs that SWIY has used. You could go to the doctor one day, complaining about drug-related anxiety and then 10 years down the line, some chump looks at your medical record and sends you a coffin catalogue instead of a new liver.
  2. cosmicruler
    this is fucking wrong for sooo many reasons!!!and if smoking marijuana is soooo wrong post transplant then why dont they provide the poor man a vaporiser or baked goods for future post transplant use??!!!hes prescribed it for fuck sakes!

    instead they would rather just let him die!!!

    agreed chinpoko,does make swim think twice about admitting to substance use/abuse to medical professionals.
  3. RaverHippie
    and I bet you the patient's insurance only allows his transplant procedure to be done in the hospital with the bar on cannabis use for those needing a transplant. One would think he would be able to switch hospitals to one that would allow such a procedure..Unless it is the norm for transplant programs to bar people for cannabis consumption.
  4. Panthers007
    The US government has said for year that marijuana kills people. Looks like they went out of their way to make it so.

    They should be hanged.
  5. psyche
    Poor guy. This is insane. But what struck to me as odd is that they denied the liver because of the pot since this guy has been IV'ing amphetamine and gotten the hepatitis. The article doesn't seem to have any quotes from the decision itself stating that it was because of marijuana, just generalized statements about implications of marijuana use on getting transplants in general. Is this really more becaure of the marijuana than IV drug-use history?
  6. enquirewithin
    I hate to be negative and the guy has all my sympathy, but there is something fishy going on here. No way does hepatitis C linger that long then emerge. This guy has recently being sharing needles or having anal sex. Shooting up speed is not going to give a transplanted liver a chance. Smoking marijuana would probably be beneficial to his recovery, reducing depression and stimulating appetite.
  7. Panthers007
    Hepatitis C can lay dormant for over a decade - at least. This from tests done on people who have it, but exhibit no symptomology from it. It seems some people just show a positive for the Hep. C and never get sick. Others end up requiring a liver transplant.

    A friend of mine was diagnosed with this also. He got it from a shared needle of methamphetamine under a bridge in San Francisco. He never got any symptoms. The only way he discovered he had become infected was from blood tests. He had been part of a cocaine and alcohol study at San Francisco General Hospital. They paid him to do some cocaine and drink a few cocktails. Then they would draw his blood. One day they told him he was no longer in the study. That he had become infected with Hep.C.
  8. alapoet
    Man, it fucking sucks so hard that they disqualified Tim Garon from consideration for a liver transplant for smoking legal medical marijuana.

    Where's the justice in that? The compassion? The idiots who made this decision, particularly Dr. Jorge Reyes, have no business in the healing profession. They should just turn in their credentials and go into police work or religion, if they need to be that fucking judgmental about the choices other people make...

    This strikes really close to home for me because I just got a diagnosis last year, some 25 years after the fact...

    What makes it even more tragic is that Tim is a really talented, really special musician (singer/songwriter)...
  9. Dole654
    I'm sorry I can't really come up with a legitimate post... all I can really think is fuck those people.

    Shooting speed is a different ballpark, but legal weed.... god damn...
  10. alapoet
    Exactly. I mean, the guy's doctor TOLD him to smoke the weed, to control his nausea and pain... And now he has to die for doing that.
  11. Panthers007
    I hope his friends & family file a class-action wrongful death lawsuit like none other! If one can't shoot these people(it's against the law), then one can sever their favorite artery: The financial artery.
  12. enquirewithin
    Maybe I'm ignorant of the medicine here, but I know you can be a carrier of Hepatitis C for a long time, which will make you test positive, but can carriers actually suddenly display symptoms years alter?
  13. AntiAimer
    Yet another victim to the drug war that no one ever hears about. Very sad.
  14. Panthers007
    I don't know what qualifies one as a carrier as opposed to one with a dormant(for now) form. If there is any difference. Anyone else got a clue?
  15. enquirewithin
    I know some people are carriers and can pass on the disease and never actually exhibit symptoms. I'll have to try to do some research.
  16. Panthers007
    Last time I checked, hepatitis had passed Hep.H and was mutating rapidly.
  17. lexifer
    FOLLOW UP STORY: Medical marijuana user who was denied liver transplant dies
  18. chinpokomaster
    Pretty sad really. My heart goes out to his family, fans and the rest of the civilised world.
  19. AddyCrazy
    I'm sure those who are prescribed painkillers like oxycodone or fentanyl for diseases similar to this are allowed to get transplants without a second thought but god forbid anybody smokes the devil's weed.
  20. Panthers007
    The Federal government has, yet again, shown it's true colors. They believe that if you smoke a plant that makes you peaceful - for any reason whatsoever including medical reasons - they believe you deserve to die. I'll say it here and now: The United States Federal Government has committed an act of murder. This demands prosecution under the law.
To make a comment simply sign up and become a member!