L.A. Hospital Denies Second Patient Transplant for Medical Pot Use

Wednesday, June 20, 2012
Former kidney transplant candidate Toni Trujillo


When Norman B. Smith went public in September 2011 with his story about being denied a liver transplant at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles because he legally smoked medical marijuana, he said he was hoping knowledge of his plight would help change the policy.

It didn’t. The hospital denied a kidney transplant to a second patient, Toni Trujillo, a week ago. Trujillo, who had been on the list for six years, was told if she quit smoking pot and participated in a six-month substance abuse program she would be eligible to be placed back on the list, at the bottom. It would be Trujillo’s second transplant. She underwent her first in 1991 after contracting a rare disorder in her youth and has been on dialysis for five years. Many hospitals have policies against transplants for patients deemed to have substance abuse problems.

Medical marijuana can be effective in facilitating sleep, relieving pain and stimulating appetite in chronic sufferers, especially those like Smith, who suffers loss of appetite from chemotherapy.   

Both Smith and Trujillo say they were told by the hospital that a primary reason for denial was the risk of infection caused by aspergillosis, a genus of common molds frequently seen growing on plants, trees and food. Marijuana dispensaries regularly test for the mold. While the fungus is considered a threat to people with suppressed immune function and a serious problem for people following transplants, the Centers for Disease Control points out that people are exposed to it every day in the air they breathe.

Americans for Safe Access, an advocacy group, called the decision by Cedars-Sinai “politically motivated” in a letter to the hospital pleading Trujillo’s case.   

Smith was diagnosed with inoperable liver cancer in 2009 and said after the hospital denial, “It is probably too late for me, but I hope it makes it easier for the next guy.” He was two months away from receiving a transplant at the time he was taken off the list and given three months to live by his doctor a few weeks ago.

–Ken Broder


To Learn More:    

Man Denied Liver Transplant for Using Prescribed Marijuana: “Probably Too Late for Me” (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)

LA Hospital Denies Life-Saving Organ Transplant to Medical Pot User (Again) (by Phillip Smith, Alternet)

Second Medical Marijuana Patient Denied Transplant by Cedars-Sinai in the Last Year (Americans for Safe Access)

Letter of Smith Transplant Denial (pdf)

Marijuana Smoker Norman Smith Booted from Cedars Sinai Hospital Liver Transplant List (by Dennis Romero, LA Weekly)

Medical Marijuana Patient Denied Liver Transplant: It’s Too Late for Me (by Eric W. Dolan, The Raw Story)

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