Expert calls for a review of policies on pot use, transplants after man’s death

Death of Park City man who was refused a lung transplant at the U. of U. over his marijuana use sparks calls for reform.
The death Saturday of a Park City man refused eligibility for a lung transplant at the University of Utah after doctors found a trace of marijuana in his system is sparking debate on hospital policies.

A leading national expert on transplantation said Monday that with the changing U.S. climate surrounding medical and recreational marijuana, transplant centers need to re-evaluate "and try to come to some reasonable judgments on the risk of marijuana use and the benefits of transplantations."

Nearly half the U.S. states now make some form of marijuana use legal.

"Social and legal policy across the country is changing quickly, and I transplantation and medicine in general need to keep up with what is going on and make appropriate decisions," said David Klassen, chief medical officer at United Network of Organ Sharing, a Virginia-based group that manages several national transplant waiting lists.

Riley Hancey, 20, died around 4 p.m. Saturday surrounded by his father, mother and two aunts at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, after receiving a double lung transplant there March 29.

"This death is unbelievable," his father, Mark Hancey, said Sunday. "If you could talk about angels, [the Penn] medical staff, they are a group of angels. From the physicians down, I just couldn't believe it."

The younger Hancey, an avid skier and cycling enthusiast, was admitted to the U. Hospital in Salt Lake City on Dec. 2 after suffering a severe bout of pneumonia last Thanksgiving. He was put on life support two weeks later, remained on a lung machine for about a month and was recommended for a transplant when it became apparent that his lungs would not heal with other forms of treatment. Continue reading
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