The young man from Utah who was denied of lung transplant last year after the University of Utah Hospital found him positive for marijuana has died due to failed surgery.
Although 19-year-old Riley Hancey was initially denied the life-saving treatment, he eventually got a lung transplant in a surgical operation done at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania four weeks ago.
Declined Lung Transplant After Testing Positive For THC
The operation was made months after the University of Utah Hospital declined to give Hancey a spot on its transplant list when he tested positive for THC, the main mind-altering ingredient present in marijuana.
Hancey was hospitalized after Thanksgiving due to a severe form of pneumonia that led to the collapse of his lung. His father said that the teen smoked pot on Thanksgiving night with friends but he had been drug-free for a year before he became sick.
"Riley was not a big pot smoker," said Mike Hancey, the teenager's dad. "He did smoke pot. He's a 19-year-old ski guy. It's not like he's a smoker for 30 years and has deteriorating lungs because of that."
Guidelines For Transplanting Organs
The University of Utah Hospital said that it has guidelines for transplantation of organs which are based on the complexity of the operation, likelihood of rejection, and the patient's ability to stick to post-operative care plan.
The hospital said that in general, it does not permit transplantation of organs in patients with active tobacco, alcohol, and drug dependencies or abuse until these are addressed since the substances are contraindicated for organ transplant.
Other hospitals do not have such strict guidelines. UCSF, the busiest transplant center in the United States no longer tests for THC.
UCSF and other medical centers in California are also not allowed by state law to deny patients solely for pot use. What these hospitals do is ask patients about their use of marijuana and other substances and to what extent, which help doctors determine who will most likely thrive after the surgery.
Condition Worsened After Getting New Pair Of Lungs
After Hancey was turned down for transplant, his family searched for another hospital that would do the operation. The doctors at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania finally performed the procedure on March 29.
Hancey's family was hopeful after he received a new pair of lungs but his condition worsened. On Saturday, his family announced that the young man has passed away.
Message From The Family
"It has been a long battle to save Riley's life. We know that in our hearts we gave him every opportunity to survive," the family said in a statement posted in the crowdfunding site Youcaring.com, where the young man's loved ones raised money for his operation.
The family thanked the University of Pennsylvania, the University of Utah, and the donor's family.
"He will live in our hearts forever. Riley is now free to climb every mountain, ski the back country, go fishing, and run every river. He will continue to do so with his family in spirit."