Why Should Someone Die Waiting for a Kidney?

The war on drugs is insidious. A kidney patient in Maine has been taken off a transplant wait list for using medical marijuana, even though both the medical and recreational use of marijuana is legal in Maine.

Garry Godfrey has Alport Syndrome, a hereditary disease which causes renal failure at a young age. He suffers from debilitating pain, nausea, and anxiety, which he treats with medical marijuana. “I’ve tried so many pharmaceuticals and none of them worked, but the medical cannabis does,” he said. “It helps me function. It helps me take care of my kids.” “You should not be discriminated against for the type of medicine you choose,” he added.

Godfrey was put on Maine Medical Center’s kidney transplant list in 2003. In 2010, Maine Medical Center adopted a new policy that “prohibits transplant candidates from using marijuana, due to the risk of an invasive fungal infection known as Aspergillosis.” Godfrey says he was informed of the new policy and taken off the transplant list.

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The hospital says that “once off marijuana, patients can requalify and get put back on the hospital’s wait list.” State lawmakers are considering a bill that would prohibit Maine hospitals from “rejecting transplant patients solely for using medical marijuana.” Godfrey even testified in support of the bill, which is now in committee. Gun Control and the Se... Laurence M. Vance Buy New $5.95 (as of 03:35 EDT - Details)

It is a shame that using marijuana—even for medical reasons—may ruin your life. It is an outrage that it may cost you your life. Not, of course, because of the marijuana, but because of society’s reaction to the use of marijuana.

Let’s assume for a moment that the risk of infection is the sole reason that the hospital took Garry Godfrey off its kidney transplant list. Since I am not a physician, I will not comment on the risk of fungal infections or whether the hospital is telling the whole truth about marijuana. But let’s assume that the risk of infection is extremely high and it is really a bad idea for a kidney transplant patient to use marijuana. And let’s further assume that marijuana is not only perfectly legal, but has no stigma associated with its use.

Under these circumstances, what could possibly be wrong with this situation?

Plenty, and it has nothing to do with marijuana.

Mr. Godfrey has been waiting for a kidney since 2003. Why? Why can’t he just buy one from a willing donor or the family of a deceased individual? Because the federal government won’t let him. Why can’t some philanthropist just buy one from a willing donor or the family of a deceased individual? Again, because the federal government won’t let him.

In 1984, Congress passed the National Organ Transplant Act (NOTA) to outlaw the sale of body organs and established the Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network (OPTN) to facilitate the procurement of such organs. The program is administered by the United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS), a non-profit organization.

According to the NOTA: “It shall be unlawful for any person to knowingly acquire, receive, or otherwise transfer any human organ for valuable consideration for use in human transplantation if the transfer affects interstate commerce.” The penalty is a fine of $50,000 or up to five years in prison, or both. The Senate Report accompanying NOTA stated that “human body parts should not be viewed as commodities.”

There are three things that need to be said about this.

It Is Dangerous to Be ... Andrew P. Napolitano Best Price: $1.16 Buy New $4.90 (as of 11:40 EDT - Details) First of all, overseeing the procurement of bodily organs is an unconstitutional and illegitimate function of government that could be handled entirely and more efficiently by the private sector on the free market.

Second, as Judge Napolitano wrote in It Is Dangerous to Be Right When the Government Is Wrong: The Case for Personal Freedom: “By preventing the buying and selling of organs, the government is making it extremely difficult to find sufficient organ donors because there are zero incentives to donate.”

Third, and most important, do you own your own body? If there is anything that the poorest man owns it is his own body. Anyone should be able to do what he wants with his own body as long as his activities are peaceful, his interactions are consensual, his associations are voluntary, and he doesn’t violate the personal or property rights of anyone else. And if you own your own body, then you certainly also own the organs in your body.

If you can’t use the medicine you want without the government’s permission, then you don’t own your own body, the government does. If you can’t ingest any substances you want without the government’s permission, then you don’t own your own body, the government does. If you can’t sell any part of your own body without the government’s permission, then you don’t own your body, the government does. If you can’t do what you wish with your own body without the government’s permission, then you don’t own your own body, the government does.

In a free society, your body belongs to you—not the government. But Americans don’t live in a free society, do they?