Should doctors be allowed to deny a medical cannabis patient surgery? That’s the debate that’s raging in Maine right now. We ask the question: “Should this even be debatable?”
One man is drawing publicity for the issue. His name is Garry Godfrey, and he inherited a disease called Alport Syndrome. Because of his condition, he suffered from complete kidney failure when he was still very young. Today, he struggles with anxiety, nausea, and debilitating pain. Godfrey has been on Maine Medical Center’s waiting list for a kidney transplant since 2003.
WGME.com reports that Godfrey was removed from the waiting list in 2010 after Maine Med changed its policy. Now, lawmakers in Maine are discussing a bill that will prevent hospitals from rejecting patients on the grounds of using medical marijuana. However, a hospital doctor told the press that there are medical reasons for taking cannabis users off the list.
Rejected for fear of infection
Clay Holtzman, the spokesperson for Maine Medical Center, says the drug policy prohibits candidates awaiting transplants from cannabis use, because of the high risk of a fungal infection called Aspergillosis. Once the patient is off cannabis, they can re-qualify to get on the program’s waiting list.
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Cannabis is the only way of coping
Godfrey says medical marijuana is the only medicine that can help him function and cope with taking care of his children. He uses it to manage the pain caused by his kidney dysfunction, but it is also an effective treatment for his nausea and helps him a lot with his anxiety.
Godfrey says he should be allowed to use medical cannabis since it’s his choice to use it. He has tried many pharmaceuticals, but none of them worked and they had negative side effects. Medical marijuana works and doesn’t have the side effects – but now he can’t have the kidney transplant that would restore his health.
Policy change affects medical cannabis patient
In 2010, Maine Med informed Godfrey that it had changed its policy and he could no longer use cannabis if he wanted to be on the waiting list for a kidney transplant.
Godfrey has spoken out about his experience because he supports the bill that prohibits hospitals from turning down transplant patients. He says that denying a medical cannabis patient surgery amounts to unfair discrimination.
Godfrey’s case raises some interesting ethical questions about the right to choose one’s treatment options.
Do you think hospitals should be able to turn down medical cannabis patients who need transplants? Surely doctors can inform adult patients of the risks and let them decide for themselves. In addition, medical cannabis patients surely don’t have to stop all use for years in order to build immunity. Could a few weeks’ notice do?
Doctors may fear malpractice suits, but if they take the right steps to show that they informed their patients, they have protection. Surely the patient himself should have the right to decide.