Medical marijuana user dies without transplant | KOMO-TV – Seattle, Washington | News
SEATTLE (AP) – A musician who was denied a liver transplant because he used marijuana with medical approval under Washington state law to ease the symptoms of advanced hepatitis C died Thursday.
The death of Timothy Garon, 56, at Bailey-Boushay House, an intensive care nursing center was confirmed to The Associated Press by his lawyer, Douglas Hiatt, and Alisha Mark, a spokeswoman for Virginia Mason Medical Center, which operates Bailey-Boushay.
Dr. Brad Roter, the physician who authorized Garon to smoke pot to alleviate for 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.
The case has highlighted a new ethical consideration for those allocating organs for transplant, especially in the dozen states that have medical marijuana laws: When dying patients need a transplant, should it be held against them if they’ve used pot with a doctor’s blessing?
Garon died 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.
“He said I’m going to die with such conviction,” Garon told an AP reporter at the time. “I’m not angry, I’m not mad, I’m just confused.”
Garon believes he contracted hepatitis C 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.
He had been in the hospice for two months and previously was rejected for a transplant at Swedish Medical Center for the same reason he later got from the university hospital.
Swedish said he would be considered if he avoided pot for six months and the university hospital offered to reconsider if he enrolled in a 60-day drug treatment program, but doctors said his liver disease was too advanced for him to last that long. The university hospital committee agreed to reconsider anyway, then denied him again.
The idea of keeping drug addicts off of transplant lists is not necessarily a bad idea. There are precious few organs to go around, and one should not be given to a person who is just likely to destroy the new organ because of their addictions. But this is clearly not the case with medical marijuana patients.
The grim irony here is that Garon could have used other drugs to treat his hepatitis symptoms, but those pharmaceuticals are toxic to the very liver he needed to be transplanted. He used medical marijuana because of its lack of liver toxicity. Perhaps it is what kept him alive as long as he was; perhaps the other drugs would have killed him more quickly.
Doctors in charge of the transplant division at UWMC were unsure that after the transplant, Garon wouldn’t resume using medical marijuana. Most of their quotes revealed an astonishing lack of understanding about cannabis, with worries about Garon being unable to control a so-called addiction to cannabis, that, had he continued smoking cannabis, his immune system, suppressed for the transplant, would be unable to fight off any infections or molds he might pick up from smoking.
A man is dead today because of ignorance about medical marijuana, stereotypes against responsible cannabis users, and the cruel federal prohibition of the most helpful plant known to mankind.