A teen who was denied a lung transplant due to his marijuana use has died. Pneumonia patient Riley Hancey, 19, was denied a lung transplant and then died on April 22 after finally receiving a transplant in March, reports Daily Mail. He reportedly became sick over Thanksgiving 2016 with a severe case of pneumonia, and had to be put on life support.
At that time, doctors informed him that he would would need a double lung transplant to survive. But the University of Utah Hospital refused to put him on the transplant list after finding marijuana in his system.
According to Riley’s father, Mark Hancey, the attending doctor bluntly told him that he was going to die. “She was willing to let him die over testing positive for marijuana. This is what shocked me,” he told BuzzFeed.
Hancey said that his son doesn’t usually do drugs, but had some marijuana after Thanksgiving dinner. “It’s not like he’s a smoker for 30 years and (had) deteriorating lungs because of that,” he explained.
In a statement, officials at the University of Utah Hospital said:
“We do not transplant organs in patients with active alcohol, tobacco or illicit drug use or dependencies until these issues are addressed, as these substances are contraindicated for a transplant.”
After being rejected there, the University of Pennsylvania agreed to perform the transplant two months later. Riley was flown to Philadelphia on Feb. 17, and when pair of lungs became available on March 31, he underwent the eight-hour surgery.
The initial prognosis following the operation was optimistic. “He looked so healthy,” noted his father soon afterward. “It made all the difference, and he still looks healthy. … He still fighting, and he’s doing well.”
However, on April 22, the family announced that Riley had died from complications following the transplant.
In information provided to prospective transplant patients, the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute explains the risks involved following transplant surgery:
“The first year after lung transplant surgery is when you are most at risk for possibly life-threatening complications such as rejection and infection. To help prevent rejection, you will need to take medicines for the rest of your life that suppress your immune system and help prevent your body from rejecting your new lungs. These important medicines weaken your immune system and increase your chance for infections, and over time they can increase your risk for cancer, diabetes, osteoporosis, and kidney damage.”
“It has been a long battle to save Riley’s life,” his family said in a statement. “We know that in our hearts we gave him every opportunity to survive. He will live in our hearts forever. Riley is now free to climb every mountain, ski in the back country, go fishing and run every river. He will continue to do so with his family in spirit.”