Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles is refusing to grant a liver transplant to a cancer patient because he used medical marijuana, which not only is legal under California law but also was prescribed by a Cedars doctor.
Diagnosed with inoperable liver cancer in 2009, Norman B. Smith, 63, has been treated at Cedars-Sinai by oncologist Steven Miles, who approved medicinal marijuana in part to help his patient cope with the effects of chemotherapy. Smith became eligible for a liver transplant last year, but was removed from the list in February after testing positive for marijuana.
Hospital officials are insisting that Smith stop using marijuana for at least six months, undergo random drug testing, and participate in weekly substance-abuse counseling before they will consider putting him back on the list.
Americans for Safe Access (ASA), a medical marijuana advocacy group, publicly urged Cedars-Sinai to re-list Smith for a liver transplant and to alter its transplant eligibility policy.
“Denying necessary transplants to medical marijuana patients is the worst kind of discrimination,” said ASA Chief Counsel Joe Elford. “Cedars-Sinai would not be breaking any laws, federal or otherwise, by granting Norman Smith a liver transplant, and it’s certainly the ethical thing to do.”
Other medical marijuana patients in need of transplants have been denied by Cedars-Sinai and other hospitals in the U.S., according to ASA.