Friday, May 2, 2008

Medical marijuana user who was denied liver transplant dies

Medical marijuana user who was denied liver transplant dies

Medical marijuana patients face transplant hurdles

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A man who was denied a liver transplant because he used marijuana with medical approval to ease the symptoms of hepatitis C has died.

Timothy Garon, 56, died Thursday at Bailey-Boushay House, an intensive care nursing center, said his lawyer, Douglas Hiatt, and Alisha Mark, a spokeswoman for Virginia Mason Medical Center, which operates Bailey-Boushay.

His death came a week after his doctor told him a University of Washington Medical Center committee had again denied him a spot on the liver transplant list because of his use of marijuana, although it was authorized under Washington state law.

The case highlights an ethical consideration for those allocating organs for transplant: whether using dope with a doctor's blessing should be held against a dying patient in need of a transplant.

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 the dozen states that allow it - are automatically rejected. At others, patients are given a chance to reapply if they stay clean for six months. Marijuana is illegal under federal law.

Dr. Brad Roter, who authorized Garon to smoke pot to alleviate nausea and 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.

Garon told The Associated Press last week he believed he contracted hepatitis C by sharing needles with "speed freaks" as a teenager. In recent years, he said, pot was been the only drug he used.

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