Family Says Hospital Denied Teen Lung Transplant Over Pot

The 19-year-old nearly died from what started off as the flu
By Elizabeth Armstrong Moore,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 12, 2017 7:04 AM CDT
Teen Denied Transplant for Smoking Pot Gets New Lungs
Riley Hancey has received a double lung transplant in Pennsylvania.   (

When a teen in Utah was denied a lung transplant necessary to save his life because he had smoked pot a few days prior to coming down with the flu, his family cried foul, reports KSL. Riley Hancey, who is 19 and an avid runner, biker, and skier, says he smoked pot with friends on Thanksgiving night, something he claims to do infrequently and hadn't for an entire year prior. So when he came down with the flu, which developed into pneumonia and sent him to the hospital, THC showed up in his blood work. Just as Hancey was being told he'd die without two new lungs (per a YouCaring page, he ultimately came down with a rare lung infection that caused scarring), the University of Utah Hospital denied him a spot on the transplant list. "You will die. You better get your affairs in order," dad Mark Hancey says the doctor told his son.

As BuzzFeed reports, there are no federal laws or even recommendations on the use of cannabis—which is legal in some form in nearly half of US states today—among people who need organs. The head of medical ethics at NYU says it's obvious some hospitals are looking for ways to "kick" people off the list, but adds that it is "utterly wrong" to "discriminate against people for using substances that are legal." A statement from the hospital said only that patients actively using alcohol, tobacco, or illicit drugs are denied transplants "until these issues are addressed, as these substances are contraindicated for a transplant." Fortunately for Hancey, the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania agreed to take him in, and the YouCaring page is helping cover the costs. He got new lungs two weeks ago and is recovering now. (One baby was on an organ transplant list for just 40 minutes.)

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