Kimberly Reyes - Denied Transplant Due to Pot Use

Jim Finnel

Fallen Cannabis Warrior & Ex News Moderator
Taking a hit off a marijuana cigarette may cost your life -- literally.

Waimea resident Kimberly Reyes, who was diagnosed with hepatitis - in March 2008, had been told in July that she had less than 30 days to live. Her family claimed she had followed doctor's orders, but her insurance carrier, Hawaii Medical Service Association, denied the liver transplant she needed to survive because three toxicology tests showed trace amounts of cannabis in her system.

According to Reyes' attorney, Ted Herhold of the San Francisco-based Townsend and Townsend, toxicology tests from June 14, July 3 and July 14 were the sole basis for HMSA's denial of coverage for the 51-year-old mother of five.

Reyes' husband, Robin, and her mother, Noni Kuhns, said HMSA's decision was based upon a failure to comply with the insurer's policy strictly forbidding drug use. However, both maintain that neither HMSA nor her doctors told them of HMSA's policy on drug use.

Following at least five phone calls from Stephens Media over a one-week period, HMSA Public Information Officer Chuck Marshall replied through an e-mail that HMSA would not comment. HMSA also declined to provide the insurance carrier's policies on drug use or transplant approval.

Reyes died July 27 at Hilo Medical Center, 16 months after being diagnosed. She suffered cirrhosis of the liver, chronic hepatitis - infection, and end-stage kidney disease.

"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 Reyes' mother.

The hepatitis - virus attacks the liver and interferes with its function, leading to liver failure and cirrhosis, or fatal scarring of the liver, according to the Mayo Clinic.

Reyes was twice denied a transplant by HMSA for "technical reasons," such as missing required Alcoholics Anonymous meetings -- because, Kuhns says, she was too weak.

However, on July 17, HMSA approved Reyes' request for a liver transplant.

That approval signaled the Reyes family and HMSA had apparently resolved compliance issues, Herhold said.

Three days later, however, HMSA withdrew the transplant approval after it received toxicology tests that showed cannabis in Reyes' system, Herhold said.

The attorney termed her marijuana use "an indiscretion."

She did not, according to her attorney and family, have a prescription for medical marijuana use.

Kuhns and Robin Reyes both claimed Kimberly Reyes had stopped smoking marijuana "years ago," but took a few hits off a marijuana cigarette one day to relieve feelings of nausea, disorientation and pain.

Four days before her death, Kimberly Reyes declined to speak with Stephens Media.

She was in Hilo Medical Center's intensive care unit, and said she was having difficulty talking, was very worn out and not in the mood.

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Source: Hawaii Tribune Herald (Hilo, HI)
Copyright: 2009 Hawaii Tribune Herald
Contact: Hawaii Tribune-Herald :: Hilo, Hawaii > Share > Letters
Website: Hawaii Tribune-Herald :: Hilo, Hawaii > Front
Author: Chelsea Jensen
This happened here in Washington this summer too. I have a sister in law that will probably be in the same situation. Decades of using prescriptions have killed her liver and I'm sure they'll blame it on the MJ that she just started using this year so she could get off the prescriptions.
i've had hep c since 71 (best guess by my doc's & me). thanks u.s. army. i might need a liver transplant one day myself.

if your a vetern you should get yourself tested for hep c. seriously!

there should be universal testing but that might cost the ins. co. some money. its a bigger epidemic than people might believe.

i truly believe Cannabis has kept me alive all these years.

Cannabis Improves Outcomes For Hepatitis C Patients
Cannabis - Improved Treatment Response in Hepatitis C Patients
Hepatitis C positive people - Use and self-medication with Cannabis
I get my enzymes tested twice a year because of blood pressure meds. But mainly I like getting tested because I've been a fairly heavy drinker my entire life. Everythings been great so far. Which is also why about 6 years ago I started drinking vodka with cranberry juice and OJ. It atleast makes me feel like I'm doing something
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