Target: Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius
Goal: Mandate that medicinal marijuana patients remain eligible for organ transplants
Medicinal marijuana, now legal in 18 states, has been proven to alleviate a variety of symptoms from pain to low appetite to anxiety. But some patients have been denied basic rights for using medicinal marijuana even under a doctor’s supervision. Norman B. Smith, a liver cancer patient who had a prescription for medicinal marijuana, was denied a liver transplant due to testing positive for THC. He died as a result.
Mr. Smith was being treated at Cedars-Sinai Hospital in Los Angeles. His oncologist, Dr. Steven Miles, who was employed by Cedars-Sinai, prescribed medicinal marijuana to offset the effects of Smith’s chemotherapy. Other medicinal marijuana patients reported being denied transplants by Cedars-Sinai and other hospitals. Americans for Safe Access (ASA), a medical marijuana advocacy group, reported the 2008 death of Timothy Garon after being denied a liver transplant by the University of Washington Medical Center and the 2009 death of Kimberly Reyes after being denied a liver transplant at Hawaii’s Hilo Hospital.
Medicinal marijuana is most often used to treat cancer, AIDS, Lou Gehrig’s disease, and multiple sclerosis. It makes patients hungry if they’ve lost their appetite, it alleviates pain, helps them sleep, and it offsets side effects of other medications. It has been proven useful in treating muscle spasms, diarrhea, and migraines. Medicinal marijuana is sometimes used to treat mood disorders and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) as well. Many patients respond to medicinal marijuana more than any other drugs they’ve been prescribed.
Cedars-Sinai claims to remove medicinal marijuana patients from transplant lists for two reasons: substance abuse problems, for which people taking the drugs in prescribed amounts don’t qualify, and susceptibility to the aspergillus fungus, which can cause damage to the transplanted organ. The second explanation is also bogus: a study in the American Journal of Transplantation shows that medicinal marijuana patients respond as well to organ transplants as non-users.
It is cruel, absurd, and stupid to allow would-be transplant patients to die for using legally prescribed and beneficial drugs. Urge Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius to mandate the eligibility of medicinal marijuana users for organ transplants.
Dear Mrs. Sebelius,
We are angry that patients in need of organ transplants are being denied those transplants due to their use of legally-prescribed medicinal marijuana. We were alerted to this problem by the story of Norman B. Smith, a liver cancer patient at Cedars-Sinai hospital in Los Angeles. Smith was on the list for an organ transplant, and was denied one due to his use of medicinal marijuana. He died as a result.
Mr. Smith had been prescribed marijuana by his oncologist, Dr. Steven Miles, who was employed at the same hospital that denied him the transplant.
The medicinal marijuana advocacy group Americans for Safe Access (ASA) reported at least two other cases in which medicinal marijuana patients died after being refused organ transplants. The American Journal of Transplantation published a study proving that medicinal marijuana patients respond just as well as non-users to transplants.
Medicinal marijuana is used to prevent the spread of cancer cells, treat wasting symptoms of AIDS, and treat muscle spasms in muscular dystrophy. It has proven useful as a treatment for low appetite, pain, insomnia, migraines, diarrhea, mood disorders, and other ailments. Some patients respond to medicinal marijuana when nothing else has worked.
It is cruel and stupid from both a moral and a medical standpoint to deny organ transplants on the basis of medicinal marijuana use. Please mandate that medicinal marijuana be removed from the list of organ transplant ineligibility factors from all hospitals in the United States.
[Your Name Here]