Medical Marijuana discrimination?

Here is a simple, yet, controversial question: If someone has used marijuana - even if used for medical reasons - should this prohibit him or her from being considered to be on a transplant list? Hospitals throughout this great nation struggle with this question every day.

Timothy Garon (pictured above) is a patient at the University of Washington Medical Center. He has end stage Hepatitis C and, according to this Associated Press story, may be in his final days without a liver transplant.

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.

Now, according to the American Liver Foundation, in 2005, approximately 6500 liver transplants were performed in the United States. Also, according to the site, it states that about 17000 Americans are on the liver transplant list. Interestingly enough, the CDC website states that the number of new infections with Hepatitis C has decreased from 240000 in the 1980s to about 19000 in 2006.

The issue of who should and who should not receive a transplant is always controversial. I think the issue of use of marijuana is interesting as I have blogged about it before here, here, and here.

Even though this gentleman's story is very compelling, I'm going to have to side with the hospital on this one. I agree with what was said by 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." (And in my book, not a good candidate for a transplant.)