A Teenager Was Denied a Lung Transplant Because of Marijuana

Lung diagram

A teenager from Utah was refused a double lung transplant after doctors found out he smoked marijuana

Last year, a teenager aged 19 from Salt Lake City, Utah, was denied a lung transplant because doctors found traces of THC in his blood. His parents state that he had been smoking marijuana with his friends on Thanksgiving, but he was not a regular smoker.

Riley Hancey was a very active and sporty teenager, who performed running, skiing, and cycling before falling ill. One day, he contracted a severe case of pneumonia which affected both his lungs. His condition worsened and he went to the hospital, where the doctors performed more investigations.

After ten days of being hospitalized at the University of Utah Hospital, the lungs collapsed. His only chance to survive was to receive a double lung transplant, so they started the process to add him on a waiting list for a donor.

International guidelines prevent doctors from offering transplants to drug users

During the regular tests performed before a transplant, doctors discovered traces of tetrahydrocannabinol in Hancey’s blood. This determined the doctors to refuse to grant him a place on the waiting list for the transplant.

Hancey’s parents were outraged by the situation. His father, Mark Hancey, admitted that the boy had been smoking marijuana with his friends on Thanskgiving. However, he said that Riley was not an inveterate smoker and his lungs could not have deteriorated because of this. Actually, he had not been using any kinds of drugs for a year before falling ill, with the exception of this Thanksgiving event.

When confronted about this, the hospital officials declared that they had to follow some strict international guidelines when evaluating the patients’ potential to receive a transplant. These state that active consumers of tobacco, alcohol, or illegal drugs cannot receive organ donations until the issues are addressed. This happens because some substances from the body might interfere with the transplanted organ.

Hancey received the transplant from another hospital

Hancey’s family did not give up, and started looking for other hospitals eager to perform a lung transplant. In February, they received an approval from the University of Pennsylvania Hospital. Twelve days ago, Riley received the long-awaited transplant and is currently recovering.

The doctors are optimistic about his case, as he shows quick signs of recovery. They hope that he will soon be able to be healthy again and regain his favorite sports and activities.
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