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Cedars-Sinai Denies Transplant to MMJ Patient For Second Time

Posted by Jason Draizin on 08/06/2012 in Medical Marijuana Patient Stories

For the second time in the past year, Los Angeles' Cedars-Sinai Hospital has denied a life-saving organ transplant to a patient because of their past medical marijuana use. Cedars-Sinai Medical Center removed Toni Trujillo, a qualified medical marijuana patient, from it's kidney transplant list earlier this year because of her medical marijuana use.

 

Toni Trujillo suffered from kidney problems for a majority of her life and has been placed on dialysis for the past five years after an earlier transplanted kidney began failing on her. Trujillo moved to California from Pennsylvania back in 2010, in order to be able to take advantage of the specialized treatment services that were offered at Cedars-Sinai. She had explained to her physician at Cedars-Sinai that she used medical marijuana as an appetite stimulant in order to increase her overall protein levels, and had received no negative feedback whatsoever from the doctor. When it comes to dialysis patients, the increase of protein levels is a critical need that must be met.

 

Toni Trujillo continued her use of medical marijuana while waiting patiently on the kidney transplant list, but in April, after being on that list for nearly six years, she was told over the phone that she had been taken off the list due to her medical marijuana use. The person over the phone had told her that her medical marijuana use was considered "substance abuse". Trujillo was never sent a formal de-listing letter either, further confirming her status.

Joe Elford, the Americans For Safe Access Chief Counsel, said, "Denying necessary transplants to medical marijuana patients is the worst kind of discrimination." Elford authored a letter addressed to Cedars-Sinai that urged the hospital to reconsider Toni Trujillo's de-listing. Elford said, "Cedars-Sinai would not be breaking any laws, federal or otherwise, by granting Toni Trujillo a kidney transplant, and it's certainly the ethical thing to do."

However, Toni Trujillo's currently situation echoes that exactly of a similar situation, a situation involving Norman Smith. Norman Smith is a medical marijuana patient who was diagnosed with inoperable liver cancer back in 2009. Dr. Steven Miles, Norman Smith's assigned oncologist at Cedars-Sinai, had approved of Smith's medical marijuana use as an alternative means in order to cope with the effects of his chemotherapy. Norman Smith was removed from the liver transplant list in early 2011 because of his use of medical marijuana. He was removed just two months before his eligibility period. To add to the heartbreak and unethical doings, Norman was told last week that he has only ninety days to live. When really breaking down everything that is occurring with these two, it's one of the most disheartening realizations. Considering an alternative medicine as an illicitly abused substance is a federally categorized mockery, and certainly one of the most unethical policies.

What's even worse is that Cedars-Sinai told both Toni Trujillo and Norman Smith that they must not only test negative for marijuana for a six month period to re-qualify for the wait list, but they must also take drug abuse counseling for the same time period. How can Norman Smith benefit from this process to re-qualify? You're telling a man who has been told that he has ninety days left to live that he must wait six months to re-qualify, and go through with an extensive counseling and drug testing period. However, both are said to be complying with these requirements, and both have chosen to forgo their medical marijuana use despite it's significant therapeutic benefits for them. Smith especially could benefit from medical marijuana, considering he is currently undergoing chemotherapy for his liver cancer and experiences bouts of his appetite being severely diminished.

Eventually, there is hope that both Trujillo and Smith will be admitted back onto the organ transplant list, but they will start where they first were placed - at the bottom. Toni Trujillo recently contracted peritonitis as a result of her dialysis. Peritonitis is an inflammation of the peritoneum, which is the thin tissue that lines the inner wall of the abdomen and covers most of the abdominal organs. It is considered to be a bacterial infection.

As for the doctors and staff at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, you need to listen to reason and change your misguided policy. If you are not going to change your mockery of a ruling for these two patients who are suffering greatly, then change it for the others that are going to follow their paths. Medical marijuana is a legal medication, and as it may not be protected under federal law and seen as a narcotic, it is still considered an alternative medicine.