Chronic Illness

Chronic Illness
Posted by CN Staff on May 20, 2008 at 17:49:37 PT
By Dominic Holden
Source: Stranger
Seattle, WA -- Sitting in the lobby of the University of Washington Medical Center on the UW campus, Jonathan Simchen pulls up his shirt to reveal three deep scars in his abdomen from a botched kidney operation that took place when he was 9 years old. Doctors in Colorado, where Simchen grew up, accidentally punctured his large intestine while attempting a biopsy on his kidney to determine why he was urinating blood—filling his body cavity with feces.
That was the first in a string of medical problems for Simchen, now 33, including diabetes and a recent kidney failure. Although Virginia Mason deemed Simchen qualified for a kidney transplant in 2007, the hospital removed him from the transplant list a few months later—when, he says, he expressed an interest in trying medical marijuana.Then, less than a month after Virginia Mason turned Simchen down—and after he had received authorization to use medical marijuana—the UW refused him a transplant, too.Simchen is not the first person to be denied a transplant because he uses medical marijuana, nor is he likely to be the last. Earlier this month, Timothy Garon, a 56-year-old Seattle musician with hepatitis C, died after the UW denied him a liver transplant for using medical marijuana. Garon's case received widespread attention after his story was picked up by the Associated Press and reprinted in newspapers across the country, putting the medical-marijuana transplant issue briefly in the national spotlight. Last year, an Oregon man who legally used medical marijuana sought help from a Seattle attorney after he was refused a heart transplant. Within a few months, he, too, was dead.But Simchen is in a unique position: "He's the only guy I've found who isn't going to die while it takes years to litigate this," says Douglas Hiatt, the attorney who has provided legal counsel for all three men."I don't feel sick. I don't like to think I'm a sickly person," Simchen says, striding briskly across the UW campus. A member of the Puyallup tribe, he attends Highline Community College and speaks enthusiastically of his plans to become a history teacher and travel through Europe. However, his freedom is limited. Three days a week, Simchen must receive dialysis treatments, which consume more than 15 hours every week.As a diabetic, Simchen must eat regularly to maintain his blood sugar. But as a hepatitis C patient, dialysis makes him nauseated. That's why his doctor, Dr. Jason Ling, authorized using medical marijuana, which is known for stimulating the appetite. Dr. Ling did not respond to an e-mail requesting comment.Such authorizations, while legal under Washington law since 1998, have given hospitals in the state cause to deny transplants to otherwise-qualified patients."People are following the law and they're getting screwed," says Lennon Garon, the son of liver patient Timothy Garon. "If alcohol was illegal and marijuana was legal, my dad would be alive."According to statements from Virginia Mason and the UW, which won't discuss individual patients' cases, the main reason for denying transplants to marijuana smokers is the risk that the organ might be rejected. According to officials at both hospitals, a mold occasionally found in marijuana and tobacco, called aspergillus, could foster new infections in additional organs.Because the hospitals treat medical marijuana as an addictive drug, they believe transplant patients may be unable to stop smoking pot after the transplant—allowing the harmful mold to destroy the new organ."For a lot of people, they can't just go cold turkey," says Virginia Mason spokeswoman Alisha Mark. However, Dr. Roger Roffman, a UW professor who has been studying marijuana dependence since the 1970s, rejects that claim, calling it a "serious... misread [of] science and what is known about control."Yet another UW doctor argues that claims about the danger of aspergillus in marijuana are wildly overstated. "The argument that the transplant team is making... is not medically valid," says Dr. Greg Carter, a clinical professor in the Department of Rehabilitation. "There are only a few case reports [of aspergillus infection in transplant patients] and these are not considered of much [scientific] value."After Virginia Mason removed him from the transplant list, Simchen says, a nurse there suggested he contact the University of Washington. However, when he got in touch with the UW's transplant division, he was again told he was ineligible because he had used medical marijuana. Both hospitals have justified the decision by explaining that organs are in scarce supply—roughly one organ is available for every 10 patients seeking a transplant—so the transplant teams must apply strict standards to determine which candidates are most likely to accept the organ.In a statement similar to the one released after Garon's death, Clare Hagerty, a spokeswoman for the UW transplant division, wrote: "Although medical marijuana may be an issue in rare cases, it is never the sole determinant in arriving at medical decisions about candidates for organ transplants."Hagerty says, "The committee looks at the period of abstinence a transplant candidate has demonstrated to date, efforts made to maintain this abstinence, and the potential to abuse again."So does the UW transplant division distinguish between marijuana used under a physician's care and marijuana used for recreational purposes—or, for that matter, abuse of illegal narcotics? Hagerty's response: "No. UW Medical Center's policy does not allow our physicians to prescribe medical marijuana. We also discourage authorization of its use... Substance abuse includes drugs and alcohol."Simchen says he is willing to quit smoking pot again to get the transplant. However, he adds, "If that's my only option, that breaks my heart. Medical marijuana gives me a better quality of life."Hiatt, Simchen's attorney, says, "We're seeing the drug war spilling into transplant programs. I'd like to try to negotiate something with [the hospitals] and have them reevaluate the criteria and conduct a rigorous reappraisal of the transplant policies."For his part, Simchen sees his transplant as an issue much larger than his own health. "At this point, I'm not just standing for myself. I'm standing for other patients who need a kidney transplant," he says. "If I can get it, everyone else can get it." Note: Medical marijuana is legal. So why are hospitals using it to justify denying transplants?Source: Stranger, The (Seattle, WA)Author: Dominic HoldenPublished: May 20, 2008 Copyright: 2008 The StrangerContact: editor thestranger.comWebsite: Articles:Medical Marijuana User Denied Organ Transplant and Organ Transplants Don't Mix User Dies for Lack of Liver Transplant
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Comment #12 posted by FoM on May 22, 2008 at 13:17:08 PT
Thank you. I only saw that show a couple time. The one I remember was when Senator Obama was the guest! 
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Comment #11 posted by dankhank on May 22, 2008 at 12:43:09 PT
is the woman at the table of "The View" that is a constant apologist for Repug shenanigans.I never watch the show, but I was aware of the "feud" 'tween her and Rosie. Rosie,shortly, resigned from the show.That's about all I know ... the point of my comment was the absolute hateful comment from the anonymous woman in the waiting room.I have heard for years that Oklahomans have a special dislike for Teddy, not really sure why, but I surmise it is a hypocritical view of him re: Chappaquiddick. Can't believe I spelled that right ...
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Comment #10 posted by FoM on May 21, 2008 at 20:30:17 PT
I don't know who Hasselbach is or was and what did she mean about being like a Kennedy? There isn't a family in long time politics that has touched a nation in so many different ways like they have. Their human failures have been aired for the world to see and yet they have a dignity about them that is very admirable. Being compared to a Kennedy would be a compliment to me.
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Comment #9 posted by Dankhank on May 21, 2008 at 20:14:14 PT
hate ...
Back when Rosie and the Hasselback-repug apologist were feudin' I had the opportunity to see something on morning tv about it while sitting in the Doctor's waiting room.Remarking to a women looking 50ish, I said that it would be nice if Hasselbach admitted she was wrong.Turning to me with a most hideous look on her face, the woman said" Yew probly like the Kennedys, too." I was so taken aback by her face that I was speechless, and if you ask my wife, that rarely happens ...Bet that women is a Christian, if asked ...
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Comment #8 posted by ekim on May 21, 2008 at 09:28:57 PT
just a year ago-----
Comment #3 posted by FoM on May 23, 2007 at 11:18:42 PT 
Related Article from The Associated Press 
UMass Professor Continues Medical Marijuana Fight 
May 23, 2007
ARLINGTON, Va. (AP) - A U-Mass Amherst professor waging a 6-year fight to get permission to grow marijuana for medical research is in Washington today.Horticulturist Lyle Craker says pot is a medicinal plant that needs to be studied to learn its benefits.He's challenging the government's monopoly on research marijuana.A Mississippi lab is the nation's only marijuana growing facility. Craker won a nonbinding favorable ruling earlier this year from a federal administrative judge and is awaiting a decision from the Drug Enforcement Administration.Craker appeared at a news conference today with supporters outside DEA offices.He hopes government officials understand that the pot he wants to cultivate won't be used for recreational purposes.The professor has won support from Senators Edward Kennedy and John Kerry.Copyright: 2007 The Associated Press
Congress Ask DEA to Stop Obstructing MMJ Research 
Posted by CN Staff on September 18, 2007 at 14:36:24 PT
For Immediate Release 
Source: ACLU  Washington, D.C. -- A letter signed by 45 members of the U.S. House of Representatives will be delivered today to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) demanding an end to the obstruction of scientific research aimed at developing marijuana as a legal prescription medicine.
The bipartisan letter, co-sponsored by Reps. John Olver (D-MA) and Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA), urges DEA Administrator Karen Tandy to follow the February 2007 ruling of Department of Justice-appointed administrative law judge Mary Ellen Bittner, which found that it would be “in the public interest” for the DEA to grant a license to University of Massachusetts professor Lyle Craker to cultivate research-grade marijuana to be used in Food and Drug Administration (FDA)-approved studies. Judge Bittner’s ruling is non-binding and DEA has no deadline to decide whether to accept or reject it. "For the DEA, delay is victory. For patients, delay may be the difference between life and death," said Allen Hopper, Litigation Director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s Drug Law Reform Project, which has represented Craker since 2005. "It is encouraging to see growing political will to overcome DEA's inappropriate elevation of drug war politics over science and the public good."Earlier this summer, DEA's handling of Craker's application was the subject of intense congressional scrutiny. During a hearing before the U.S House Judiciary Committee Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, and Homeland Security, Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) asked DEA Deputy Administrator Joseph T. Rannazzisi a series of questions about the case, expressed disapproval at DEA's delay, and insisted that the agency commit to make a decision before the end of President Bush's term.
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Comment #7 posted by FoM on May 21, 2008 at 09:13:22 PT
I'm really sad too about Senator Kennedy. Not too long ago when I mentioned Senator Kennedy to my sister she brought up the problem he had from years ago. I looked at her and said hasn't he paid for his mistakes in working for the people like he has? She said yes. I don't understand why people dwell on the past like that. I really don't. I look at people for what they do that is good and I personally work hard to forgive their short comings.
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Comment #6 posted by Hope on May 21, 2008 at 08:58:44 PT
I'm sure they have no problem with "harvesting" the organs from cannabis users, at all. If cannabis users can donate organs... they certainly should be able to receive them.I'm sad about Kennedy. Very sad. I hope he looks into the cannabinoid treatments available in some other countries.
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Comment #5 posted by FoM on May 21, 2008 at 06:03:19 PT
Smokey Says Yes, We Can!
I just saw this on CNN. We all need a laugh.
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Comment #4 posted by FoM on May 21, 2008 at 05:08:24 PT
Kennedy and Clinton
Senator Kennedy has dedicated his life to helping the poor and disadvantaged. He will leave a great legacy. He has been favorable to our cause. I hope he has more quality time left.Clinton scares me. Anyone that pushes against their own party to change the rules to benefit themselves won't be a good representative in my opinion. Obama has played by the rules. Go Obama!
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Comment #3 posted by The GCW on May 20, 2008 at 22:43:29 PT
Want to say something about Obama / Clinton.
There's a point where Obama may be almost within touching distance of the nomination that surely will come and should make the next move to organize His next set of moves for the general election. Clinton may be against it but for Obama to not move forward holds the entire Democrat's vision behind. Clinton stands a chance to hold back Democrats and not allow Democrates to proceed with dire needs and dire consequences.June 3rd is in only 2 weeks but that is a very valuable 2 weeks.5:20 is today.At some point Clinton may be viewed as selfish and self centered.-0-Of course self centered is better than the BAD EVIL (McCain [McCane] / Bush problem).
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Comment #2 posted by tintala on May 20, 2008 at 21:08:45 PT:
can't quit cold turkey , well it aint whiskey or
"For a lot of people, they can't just go cold turkey" that's contradiction in terms, as even if a personcould be dependant on cannabis , it aint always avaulable, so trying quit cod turkey is the way it is when there is NO cannabis, esp when you cant run to 7 eleven to buy a pack of joint, oh but you can buy a pack of cigs, which requires quiting as it is addictive.
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Comment #1 posted by goneposthole on May 20, 2008 at 20:47:27 PT
Medical Cannabis for Senator Kennedy
If I were Senator Ted Kennedy, I would be using medical cannabis right now. Not tomorrow, not a month from now, but now. It won't hurt and it can't hurt. Poor guy.Love him or hate him, your heart has to go out to him.I don't wish malignant brain tumors on anybody.Brain transplants aren't in the cards.Lighten up America, pot is not that bad.Test it out on Senator Kennedy. It can't hurt.  
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