Thursday, May 1, 2008

PATIENT CONDEMNED TO DEATH FOR HAVING USED MARIJUANA

GENE JOHNSON, ASSOCIATED PRESS Timothy Garon's face and arms are hauntingly skeletal, but the fluid building up in his abdomen makes the 56-year-old musician look eight months pregnant. His liver, ravaged by hepatitis C, is failing. Without a new one, his doctors tell him, he will be dead in days.

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.

Most transplant centers struggle with the how to deal with people who have used marijuana, said 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," Sade said

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