Parents Say Their Son was Denied a Lung Transplant Over Pot Use

The parents of an ill teenager in Utah say their son was denied a life-saving lung transplant after blood testing showed recent use of marijuana. Is that fair?

While the hospital won't speak specifically about the case, it says it has an obligation to ensure recipients of rare donor organs have the best chance of success. Presumably, pot use doesn't cut it.

The 19-year-old, Riley Hancey, ended up on life support after a severe bout with the flu that turned into pneumonia. He required a double lung transplant but was denied, his family said, when testing revealed the presence of THC. His father says he had smoked with friends just once over the Thanksgiving holiday but was not a regular marijuana user.

Without confirming or denying the family's claims, the University of Utah Hospital issued this statement:

For heart and lung transplant, we follow guidelines set by the International Society for Heart and Lung Transplantation (ISHLT). For liver, kidney and pancreas transplant, we follow guidelines set by the American Society of Transplant Physicians. We also evaluate cases individually. The reason for these guidelines is that we have a responsibility to ensure our patients have the best possible outcomes and that we are good stewards of the rare resource of the donated organ.

Generally speaking, we do not transplant organs in patients with active alcohol, tobacco or illicit drug dependencies or abuse until these issues are addressed, as these substances are contraindicated for a transplant.

Fortunately for Hancey, another hospital in Pennsylvania was willing to look past the THC. The young man received his transplant there on March 29 and is now recovering.