A Hawaii woman diagnosed with cirrhosis of the liver, chronic hepatitis infection, and end-stage kidney disease died after being denied a liver transplant by her insurance company, Hawaii Medical Service Association, because trace amounts of THC were found in her body. Her attorney explains:
Kimberly Reyes was twice denied a transplant by HMSA for “technical reasons,” such as missing required Alcoholics Anonymous meetings — because she was too weak.
However, on July 17, HMSA approved Reyes’ request for a liver transplant. That approval signaled the Reyes family and HMSA had apparently resolved compliance issues.
Three days later, however, HMSA withdrew the transplant approval after it received toxicology tests that showed cannabis in Reyes’ system.
Insurance companies have the right to deny some people organ transplants and in some cases they have very good reason to do so. Organs don’t grow on trees (yet) so I personally don’t think it’s fair for someone who has destroyed his or her body with substance abuse or someone who is unlikely to survive surgery or live much longer afterward, to receive an organ that could go to a young and otherwise healthy person.
That being said, I find it cruel that HMSA would approve this life saving transplant and then reverse that decision because she used marijuana while sick. If she wasn’t a good choice for the transplant they should have known that before finding marijuana in her system. The largest study done on marijuana’s toxicity found that marijuana does not cause cancer or other life threatening illnesses.