Moral Low Ground


Cedars-Sinai Doctor Prescribes Norman B. Smith Medical Marijuana; Same Hospital Then Cites Marijuana Use To Refuse His Liver Transplant

November 18, 2011 by Brett Wilkins in Drugs, Health & Medicine with 0 Comments

A cancer patient prescribed medical marijuana by a doctor at a Los Angeles hospital has been removed from that same hospital’s liver transplant list because he tested positive for marijuana.

According to The Raw Story, Norman B. Smith, who suffers from inoperable liver cancer, was prescribed medical marijuana by Cedars-Sinai Medical Center oncologist Dr. Steven Miles. Dr. Miles recommended cannabis to alleviate the intense pain associated with chemotherapy and an unrelated back surgery that Smith underwent.

Smith became eligible for a liver transplant in September 2010, but he tested positive for marijuana this February and was removed from the transplant waiting list within two months of receiving a new liver. Cedars-Sinai said he was removed due to non-compliance with the hospital’s substance abuse contract.

A letter sent to Smith by the director of Cedars-Sinai’s Liver Transplant Program explained that the hospital “must consider issues of substance abuse seriously since it does often play a role in the evolution of diseases that may require transplantation, and may adversely impact a new organ after a transplant.”

But this ignores studies that have shown marijuana does not affect liver transplants.

The Raw Story reports that Joe Elford, chief counsel for the medical marijuana advocacy group Americans for Safe Access (ASA), has written to Cedars-Sinai imploring them to change their transplant eligibility policy.

“While your liver transplant policies are likely motivated by the best intentions, the decision to deny Mr. Smith eligibility for a liver transplant based solely on his compliance with California law and the advice of his physician is extremely misguided and may prove fatal,” he wrote.

Indeed, at least two medical marijuana patients– one in Seattle and another in Hawaii– have died after being denied liver transplants in the last three years.

Smith is eligible to be re-listed for a transplant if he doesn’t use marijuana for at least six months and participates in weekly substance abuse counseling. And if he does get back on the list, he’ll start at the bottom.

“ASA seeks to change this harmful and uncompassionate policy not only for Smith’s benefit, but also for the benefit of numerous other medical marijuana patients who are being made to suffer unnecessarily as a result of political ideology,” Elford wrote.

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