March 2, 2012
Norman B. Smith, the 63-year-old cancer patient at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles who was denied a liver transplant because he used medical marijuana, says in a new interview that it’s probably too late for him to make a recovery even if he could get the surgery he needs.
Diagnosed three years ago with inoperable liver cancer, Smith was prescribed medical marijuana by Cedars-Sinai oncologist Steven Miles to help his patient deal with the effects of chemotherapy. Then Smith became eligible for a liver transplant, but was removed from the list after testing positive for marijuana.
Hospital officials insisted that Smith stop using marijuana for at least six months, undergo random drug testing, and attend weekly Alcoholics Anonymous classes before they will consider putting him back on the list. They say the policy has nothing to do with morality and is a decision based on the health of the patient.
Smith says he’s frustrated with the policy, but is resigned to the fact that he may have missed his chance at getting a new liver. “It’s probably too late for me,” Smith told Reason TV, “but I hope it makes it easier for the next guy…and there are plenty of us out there.”
Steph Sherer, executive director of Americans for Safe Access, says she knows of a dozen patients who have died because of the same denial of a transplant.