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Marijuana: Hawaii Insurer Denies Woman Transplant Because of Pot Use

Submitted by Phillip Smith on (Issue #597)
Consequences of Prohibition

Waimea, Hawaii, resident Kimberly Reyes died July 27 at Hilo Medical Center, 10 days after her insurance provider denied the liver transplant she needed because she had tested positive for marijuana in a series of toxicology tests. Reyes was not a registered medical marijuana user, but her family told the Honolulu Advertiser she had used it to deal with nausea, pain, and disorientation caused by the hepatitis that killed her.

Reyes' attorney, Ted Herhold of San Francisco, told the Observer that the diagnostic test results were the sole basis for Hawaii Medical Service Association's (HMSA) denial of transplant coverage. Reyes' husband Robin, and her mother, Noni Kuhns, said the decision was based on failure to comply with HMSA's policy forbidding drug use, but that neither HMSA nor her doctors had told her just what that policy was.

"Just because someone takes a hit off of a joint doesn't mean that it should be the end of their life -- this is not a reason to deny life," said Kuhns.

HMSA has refused to comment or provide its policies on drug use and transplant approval.

Denial of transplants to marijuana users has happened before. Last year, Seattle-area musician Timothy Garon died after being refused a transplant because of doctor-recommended medical marijuana use. In 2003, Oregon resident Dave Myers was removed from a transplant list merely for Marinol, a prescription medicine related to marijuana.

Permission to Reprint: This content is licensed under a modified Creative Commons Attribution license. Content of a purely educational nature in Drug War Chronicle appear courtesy of DRCNet Foundation, unless otherwise noted.


Anonymous (not verified)

This is disgusting. There is a long history of insurance companies denying treatment to people for any possible reason but in this case it is particularly despicable. This is just another case of people suffering painful deaths at the hands of unnacceptable drug policies.

Thu, 08/13/2009 - 1:56pm Permalink
Gumshrud (not verified)

How Bogus is that--denying treatment because of Medical Cannabis use? When will the persecution of tokers of a non-toxic plant (Cannabis) be free from this insanity?

Thu, 08/13/2009 - 4:15pm Permalink
Anonymous (not verified)

iTHIS is PURE Horseshyt THese insurance companies that pul this crap should be 1st off sued & then put out of business permanently & as for the new so cal drug Czar he needs to pull his head from out of his anal cavity before he suffocates

Thu, 08/13/2009 - 5:28pm Permalink
Anonymous (not verified)

I've heard of people being denied liver transplants because of rampant alcohol abuse, but alcohol damages the liver so it makes sense to want to give the liver to someone who isn't going to mess it up again. Marijuana doesn't cause liver damage though. Might as well deny someone a liver transplant for taking aspirin.

Thu, 08/13/2009 - 9:04pm Permalink
Anonymous (not verified)

It is hard to believe in a state where medical cannabis is permitted that the state health insurer won't pay to save a life...whether she was registered or not....shouldn't matter. This country must get their heads out of the sand (or wherever they are) on this issue. My father, a dr., against drugs and smoking, testified FOR medical cannabis use thirty years ago when he was into his 60's. He had seen the benefits for patients who confided in him. Please let's be reasonable people and act humanely toward one another.

Fri, 08/14/2009 - 1:05pm Permalink
maxwood (not verified)

As I read this, I remember recent headlines where retiring Alaska Gov. Palin said the Obama medical insurance reforms would include "death panels" to determine who deserved to receive lifesaving treatment and who was unsalvageable, too old, too useless, etc.

Here is what appears to be substantiation that such a thing already exists in the present system, and that it is tied to politics-- note that the Republican Party receives the lion's share of contributions from Big 2Wackgo (forget alcohol-- that is just a running dog for Big 2Wackgo)-- which has most to lose if cannabis is legalized and users are no longer punished.

Fri, 08/14/2009 - 1:21pm Permalink
khalderman (not verified)

If we had a government run health care system it would quickly become and intergal part of the war on marijuana users and those who suffer chronic pain. The government denies people work, student loans, drivers licenses, custody of their children, and free speech because they use marijuana. What makes you think they will stop with liver transplants?

Fri, 08/14/2009 - 5:17pm Permalink
maxwood (not verified)

I wonder if we concentrate on breaking the cloutpower of the tobacco industry whether we wouldn't see an improvement in the performance of government from our point of view.

Sat, 08/15/2009 - 11:48am Permalink
Anonymous (not verified)

The HMSA rep who denied the claim could have his/her eyes gouged out with sporks and it still wouldn't equal the justice deserved by this senseless death sentence. insurance companies are enemy number one in collusive partnerships behind the war on (some) drugs. This is one more despicable example, and yes, when big brother gets into the healthcare biz (when, not if) they will be screwing us all both ways if these oppressive cannabis laws are not changed. sounds like caligula, only scarier.

Mon, 08/17/2009 - 10:05pm Permalink
Anonymous (not verified)

For the president and proponents of Nat'l Healthcare (HC) to mock and deny what already exists is just another example of the delusional capabilities of our 'Liarticians' (lawyer/politician) in gov't. To suggest that their aren't panels of individuals in the insurance companies that decide what healthcare services will be rationed to the elderly is pure mental masturbation and false advertising ie this is how uncle scam promotes the general welfare. Who does the president think will decide whether a terminally ill elderly person will get a $50,000 operation to extend their life for 3-6 months... or will they just be given copious amounts of synthetic pharma morphine and heroin to manage the pain? These decisions happen thousands of times everyday... by bean counters in the business of rationing healthcare... for profit!
Does anyone actually believe that a gov't run HC option won't have a panel, of political or cultural warriors, deciding who gets what treatment, when, and at what cost? The federal gov't with it's inhumane and insane war on marijuana will continue to dictate whether a patient deserves a life saving organ, from a nat'l organ donor program, based on moral judgements... not the law or human rights. Let us never forget how dysfunctional uncle scam can be when religious idiots like former House-Leader Tom Delay intervene... have we forgotten Terry Shiavo already and the illegallity of that meddling? Let us also remember that the laws gov't mandate and dictate today (under the pretense of promoting the general welfare) won't be the same law tomorrow.. because liarticians and moral authoritarians always have a higher purpose... promoting their philosophical and/or party platform... and the rule of law be damned! Look how self-evident your rights are now.. yet even with our 'Bill of Rights'... self-evidence is still grossly ignored and deliberately violated by uncle scam and the religious. Without a very specific 'patients bill of rights' in HC reform we will no doubt continue to be treated based on moral opinions and cost benefits... not science or the rule of law!

Tue, 08/18/2009 - 4:39pm Permalink

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