Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Medical marijuana knocks Seattle musician off transplant list


SEATTLE – A Seattle rock musician is dying after being denied a liver transplant by the University of Washington Medical Center partly because of his use of medical marijuana.

Timothy Garon is dying of liver failure after living with Hepatitis C for decades. The medical marijuana he uses is prescribed by his doctor. However, marijuana use is considered an addictive behavior and a reason to deny a transplant.

Garon's doctor says he didn't know the prescription would affect Garon's eligibility.

"I thought it was very unfair they have these guidelines," said Garon.

Garon's son says if the UW Medical Center transplant committee had told him early on that his father needed to go through a treatment program and stay off pot for 60 days, they might have been able to pull it off, but by the time they found out, Garon was off the list. His condition had deteriorated.

"If they had started things early on six months prior to that, because he went downhill really fast, he may have had a chance," said Lennon Garon, Timothy's son. At least he would've had a chance to get on the list, he would have had a chance to get a new liver and live.

"He's not the first person that this happened to. He's not going to be the last person until these policies are changed."

While unable to comment specifically on Garon's case, the UW Medical Center said in a statement that medical marijuana is never the sole reason for rejecting a patient.

"The committee looks at the period of abstinence the candidate has demonstrated to date, efforts made to maintain this abstinence and the potential to abuse again," writes a medical center spokesperson.

With so few organs available, the UW Medical Center says patients selected are ultimately those with a reasonable chance of survival and a good outcome. In a given year, there are approximately 98,000 patients waiting for organs in the U.S. and only 6,000 donors.

Garon is the lead singer for Nearly Dan, a Steely Dan cover-band. He remains charged with manufacturing marijuana for his arrest in December at a rental home in Mountlake Terrace.

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