Category Archives: Politics of organ donation

Use Prescription Marijuana? No Transplant!


Did you hear the story about the Seattle, Washington man who died after being denied a liver transplant because he used physician prescribed marijuana?


This horror story is just another effect of the failure of our “altruistic” organ donation system.  It hasn’t worked for twenty-four years and will not work in the next twenty-four, or fifty-four or a hundred-four.  To prevent this kind of discrimination we simply must change our approach to organ donation. Until we do, hospitals will continue to discriminate based on who they believe is the best candidate to receive a donated organ.  The best candidate, though, is not always the sickest candidate.      


56-year-old Timothy Garon, a Seattle, Washington resident, died after doctors refused to list him for a liver transplant.  The rejection, according to the hospital, was partly due to his use of medical marijuana.  Under federal law, marijuana is an illegal drug with no medical benefits.  Several states including Washington, Nevada, Oregon and California allow its use for medical purposes. Marijuana is often prescribed to ease the symptoms of glaucoma, diabetes, high blood pressure and AIDS.  The drug has also been shown to aid the appetites of patients who are not eating.
Because transplant hospitals see federal law as superseding state law they can view marijuana as an illegal addictive drug and therefore refuse organ transplants for patients who use the medically prescribed substance..  So even if you are in a state where prescription marijuana is legal, transplant hospitals can view you as a habitual illegal drug user and deny you an organ transplant.  What?  


Ironically, the continued use of other addictive medicines like Oxycodone, do not automatically disqualify patients from transplant lists, because they are legal.  Wow, what convoluted logic.


I don’t know what kind of evidence is necessary for us to change the system to presumed consent and financial incentives (see my blog of May 13, 2008), but what more do we need?  Over 150,000 people have died because the current system could not provide them with needed organs.  Isn’t twenty-four years of failure evidence enough? 

Please read and comment on my World Wide Issues  blogs on   Also…visit my Facebook site, Organ Transplant Patients, Friends and You at  OR — my Facebook home page 

Senators McCain, Clinton, Obama — How Would You Increase Organ Donation?


If you have been following the 2008 presidential campaign you probably know the candidate’s positions on most issues.  But, where are they on organ donation?  To the best of my knowledge, none of them has been asked the tough questions around that topic.


Join me in this effort to get some answers.  Today I am sending the following letter to the three major presidential candidates.  I urge you to send one too.  You may use mine if it fits your situation.  Email addresses and web sites for the three candidates are:


Senator John McCain


Senator Hillary Clinton




            Senator Barack Obama




Dear Senator:


In August of 2007, I received a heart transplant at the Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville Florida.  I was one of the few.  On the national list of 100,000 people, fewer than 3,000 will get transplants this year and about 7,000 people will die because of a lack of donors.  It has been estabished that one organ and tissue donor can affect the lives of up to 60 people.  Organ donation is an immediate life and death issue that has not been addressed in this campaign.  People are dying, so please answer the following questions.  If you cannot answer them, or choose not to do so, please do not send me a form letter.   

  1. Why haven’t you addressed this issue?
  2. Specifically, what would you do to increase organ donation in this country?
  3. Do you support the concept of presumed consent as practiced in many European countries?  Why?  Why not?
  4. Many people who are qualified for an organ transplant can’t even get on the list because they can’t afford the operation and the aftercare.  What would you do to make sure that anyone who needs a transplant could pay for it?
  5. Will you support and promote geater funding for research into artificial organs?

Since 1995, over 100,000 people have died waiting for organs.  The national organ donation effort run by UNOS is honorable but lacking. Each year the gap between donors and recipients widens.  Please use your good office and your election year visibility to address this most important issue.

CC: NBC NEWS, CBS NEWS, ABC NEWS, FOX NEWS, CNN, MSNBC,(Morning Joe, Chris Mathews), The New York Times, The Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, USA Today, The Wall Street Journal, Associated Press, Time Magazine, Newsweek, U.S. News and World Report


To readers:  Because of the minute-by-minute coverage of the campaign, we have a unique opportunity to influence millions to become organ donors.  Please don’t just read this blog and then sign off.  Send a letter to the Senators and a copy of this blog to all of your friends. 


I also intend to begin a petition that will be sent to the candidates urging them to make increased organ donation a major priority whether elected President or not.  If you like the idea let me know by writing to  If enough people respond I will move forward with a formal petition that you can sign.  


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