Transplants

Utah man initially denied lung transplant over pot use dies after complications, family says

Riley Hancey died Saturday, just days after celebrating his 20th birthday, his family said.

Riley Hancey died Saturday, just days after celebrating his 20th birthday, his family said.  (YouCaring)

A Utah man who was initially denied a lung transplant after a hospital found traces of marijuana in his system died on Saturday, in the Pennsylvania hospital that agreed to accept his case. Riley Hancey, 20, was recovering from a double lung transplant at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania when he suffered fatal complications, The Salt Lake Tribune reported.

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Hancey’s difficulties began in December, when he was admitted to the University of Utah Hospital after contracting pneumonia. He was placed on life support two weeks later, but ultimately denied transplant eligibility after tests revealed traces of marijuana in his system, The Tribune reported. His father, Mark Hancey, said his son smoked marijuana with friends over Thanksgiving, but was not a habitual marijuana smoker.

Though the hospital would not comment specifically on Hancey’s case, a follow-up statement said that it does 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.”

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After a thorough search, his family had Hancey transferred to the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania where he underwent a double-lung transplant on March 29. Updates on Hancey’s YouCaring page asked for continued prayers as he recovered from the procedure. On April 22, the family announced Hancey’s death.

“It is with heavy hearts, we are devastated to announce that Riley Hancey passed away from complications of a lung transplant,” the post read. “We are extremely thankful to all the wonderful doctors and staff at the University of Pennsylvania and the University of Utah for their expertise and care that Riley received. We would also like to thank the donor family, who in their own grief chose to save a life. We will never forget your kindness and generosity.”

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His father told The Tribune that his death “is unbelievable.”

“If you could talk about angels, [the UPenn] medical staff, they are a group of angels. From the physicians down, I just couldn’t believe it,” Mark Hancey told the news outlet.