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Lung Transplantation Utah Teen Dies At 20 From Complications

Update Date: Apr 26, 2017 08:55 AM EDT

Riley Hancey, the teen from Park City, Utah died from complications from the double lung transplantation he received at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania. He was previously declared ineligible for transplant in Utah because of marijuana use.

Meet Riley Hancey

Hancey turned 20 years old, just a few weeks after he underwent the lung transplantation. He caught the attention of the public in Dec., when his story that his home state of Utah took him off the list of people eligible for a transplant because doctors found traces of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), grabbed headlines.

He admitted to smoking pot during Thanksgiving, but denied being a habitual pot smoker. The University of Utah Hospital denied him the life-saving surgery because use and dependency on substances like alcohol, tobacco, and illicit drugs may render treatment ineffective because of contraindication issues, Fox News reported.

Hancey Passed Away From Complications

The family of Riley Hancey was with him as he succumbed to complications from lung transplantation. His body was already weakened with his initial bout with severe pneumonia that turned into the lung infection.

After spending months in the ICU in Utah, he was finally admitted into the transplant list at the UPenn hospital. His family thanked the staff at both hospitals for giving him every opportunity to survive, The New York Post reported.

Observers now ask if he would have survived if he was allowed to undergo the lung transplantation in Utah. The length of time waiting while his family searched for a hospital to accept his case may or may not have affected his survival rate.

The fact that he was already on the ECMO machine that oxygenated his blood may have also affected decisions of other hospitals to accept his case as it would have made the lung transplantation operation more difficult. Several states already have laws allowing medical and recreational marijuana but there are no federal guidelines that govern Riley's case.

What doctors argue is that people who inhale cannabis smoke increase their risk of infections after transplants and pot smokers may not be as reliable to stick to the treatment program to care for their new organs after transplantation. Others argue that it might just be a sad case of organ supply and demand where doctors need to cull the long waitlist for organs to be able to spread out what few they have available.

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