Stanford patient denied liver due to medical marijuana

A Stanford Hospital patient says he's being denied a liver transplant because of the medicine he's taking to help him survive.
April 23, 2014 12:00:00 AM PDT
A Stanford Hospital patient says he's being denied a liver transplant because of the medicine he's taking to help him survive -- medical marijuana. He spoke with ABC7 News about the need for change in organ transplant policies.

Richard Hawthorne says marijuana is keeping him alive while he waits for a new liver. It's also why Stanford Medical Center removed him from the liver transplant waiting list.

"I'm not an everyday going out and getting stoned type of guy. I don't get high during the day. I can't operate that way," said Hawthorne.

Hawthorne, who has Hepatitis C and is suffering from cirrhosis, says medical marijuana helped him get his appetite back and it alleviates the side effects from all the medicine he takes for his failing liver.

"I sleep pretty well, a lot better. Cramping has gone down, almost completely away," said Hawthorne.

Stanford removed Hawthorne from the list based on national standards. It says: "The national protocols include factors that may lead to disqualification, which include both use of drugs and alcohol."

Hawthorne, who admits to using intravenous drugs in the 1990s, needs to show he's clean to get back on the waiting list, but he's not willing to give up the cannabis.

"I could be sitting around waiting for two, three years. In the meantime, my health is worsening because I'm not eating or getting a proper night's sleep," said Hawthorne.

Legal advocates for cannabis, who say there are similar cases, are trying to change transplant standards to include medical marijuana patients. However, it needs to happen fast for Hawthorne who has already lived longer than his doctor's expected.


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