Monday, May 19, 2008

Where the hell is the common sense?

There is a damned good reason I took myself out of the game early and turned to taking on staggering examples of "stupid" that I had to just shake my head about when I was part of the system. One intelligent, clear-eyed person can only absorb a set amount of cognitive dissonance and power-structure stupidity over the course of a career and still retain a shred of sanity; and here is a text-book example of the sort of stupid that made me say "Hmmm...I can retire and be comfortable, and play with my grandkid and blog...or I can keep banging my head against this reinforced concrete wall. What to do?"

Patients who have used medical marijuana are being turned away by transplant programs for taking the still-unorthodox advice of their physicians and using marijuana to treat symptoms of their illness - and this is happening in states where the voters have decided that medical use of the plant is legal!
This month, Timothy Garon, 56, a Seattle musician, died after being turned down for a liver transplant. He was rejected partly because he had used medical marijuana.

Now, a second critically ill patient in Washington state says he has been denied a spot in two organ transplant programs because he uses doctor-prescribed marijuana.

Jonathon Simchen, 33, of Fife, a town south of Seattle, is a diabetic whose kidneys and pancreas have failed.

He said he was removed from the transplant program at Virginia Mason Hospital in Seattle because he admitted using medical marijuana. Later, he said, University of Washington Medical Center transplant officials refused to accept him because of the medical marijuana issue.

"I'm just so discouraged," said the community college student, who wants to be a teacher. "I've lost all remnants of hope. I look at my life right now as if it is a prison term. I just have to serve each day."
Transplant programs have a stringent set of guidelines set up years ago when transplantation was new that were put in place to assure the best possible outcomes for the radical surgery. Because there are far more people needing organs than there are organs available for transplant, the guidelines are very specific about behavioral risks that might compromise the success of the transplant or the patients post-transplant health. Smoking and drug-use are dealbreakers.

This isn't on the article, but I have worked in the healthcare delivery system and I know what kind of stupid is enshrined in the U.S. code, and I am going to share some of it with you.

In fairness, hospitals are caught on the horns of a dilemma. States might legalize for medical reasons, but the federal law prohibiting marijuana use still supercedes.

This is no different than anything else...follow the money.

If any hospital were to take a bold stand and admit a patient to their transplant program that is using medical marijuana, they would lose their federal funding in a heartbeat. Under this petty and sanctimonious administration, it would likely be for all programs, not just the transplant program. I have no doubt that that has been made clear, and that is where the "federal law" petticoat comes into play without further elaboration. Threaten the significant source of a hospitals funding and get compliance with all kinds of fucked-up regulations. Duh.

Nobody on those transplant committees wants to see these people die - but they know the reality they are working in right now, and a hell of a lot more people will die because they won't be delivering any of their services.

And it's a two-fer. Doctors will be reluctant to advise marijuana use for patients who might benefit from the therapeutic and palliative effects if that advice might doom their patients to eventual painful deaths should, they need a transplant in the future.

If you are pissed off about this, contact your congressperson and senators, rather than the hospitals in Washington state that are named in the article.

Tell them that they need to protect the doctors and hospitals that serve these patients. Especially if your congressperson is a "states rights" republican. They really ought to have a problem with this...

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