The only way for cancer-stricken Smith to get back on the list of potential liver recipients is to forego using medical marijuana for a staggering six months while submitting to random drug testing and counseling. For his part, Smith requested that Cedars-Sinai reinstate his name on the list immediately – no report if the hospital responded. Smith told the Los Angeles Times, “It’s frustrating … I have inoperable cancer. If I don’t get a transplant, the candle’s lit and it’s a short fuse.”
The rationalized responses from the medical profession wouldn’t win any bedside manner awards: “We have to do a prioritization, like you literally do on a battlefield – who can die and who can survive, because we don’t have enough livers,” Dr. Goran Klintmalm, chief of the Baylor Regional Transplant Institute told the L.A. Times. “As long as we have patients who die on the list waiting for organs … is it right to give [to] patients who have a history of drug use? You can discuss until the cows come home if it is social marijuana or medical marijuana.”
Or perhaps this bit of scientific reasoning is more convincing: “If you are drunk or high or stoned, you are not going to take your medicine,” said Dr. Jeffrey Crippin, ex-president of the American Society of Transplantation and current medical director at Washington University (St. Louis).
Among the bitter ironies of this systematic denial of livers for legitimate patients is that in actuality it is legal and socially approved alcohol that causes profoundly more liver damage than all the bong hits in the world – yet medi-pot patients are being punished.
Of course, you can party to high heaven and still get a healthy transplanted liver if you got the bucks to jump to the top of the list as noted rock-n-roll partiers Phil Lesh and (the now deceased) Papa John Phillips have done (Phillips was even photographed drinking after receiving his new liver; he died of heart failure in 2001). This is not to deny for one moment that Phillips and Lesh are brilliant musicians deserving of continued life, but the overbearing hypocrisy when it comes to who does (rich and famous people) and who does not (everyone else) receive liver transplants, regardless of past use of pot or any other illegal drug, remains ever present.