|Angel Raich (image: Duke Law)|
Madison Ruppert, Contributing Writer
Angel Raich has become somewhat famous for her courageous fight against the government of the United States which opposes allowing Raich access to her much-needed medication.
Back in 2004 and 2005 Raich brought her fight all the way to the United States Supreme Court where she argued for the right to use medical cannabis.
Unfortunately in 2005 the Supreme Court ruled that under the Constitution’s Commerce Clause, the United States Congress has the power to criminalize both the production and use of home-grown cannabis, even in states which have already legalized its use in medicinal applications.
Now Raich is facing an entirely new fight with the University of California, San Francisco Medical Center, a state-run institution in California, where medical marijuana is legal. Raich says that the UCSF Medical Center booted her out of their facility because of her medical marijuana use and even received some threats from hospital staff.
NBC Bay Area characterizes Raich as a “medical marijuana celebrity” and provides some quotes directly from Raich just moments after she said the hospital kicked her out.
“The pharmacist says ‘you’re not allowed to have [cannabis] in this hospital,’” Raich said. “’And if you’re gonna try to have [cannabis] in this hospital we’re going to call the Feds.’”
Raich reports that she originally checked into the medical facility to undergo tests on her brain which had been ordered by her doctor.
She is suffering from, and continues to battle, an inoperable brain tumor which results in chronic pain and seizures, and according to her, the prognosis is far from positive.
Raich said that she told a hospital employee, “’You’re basically saying if I stay it’s like giving me a death sentence ’cause I’d have to be without my [cannabis].’”
According to Raich, she had no choice but to leave the hospital even though it is legal for patients to get recommendations for medical marijuana from a qualified doctor in the state of California.
“I’m in a state university hospital in the state of California,” Raich rightly said. “I have the right to have the same medical care as any other patient does.”
In an official statement, the UCSF Medical Center claimed that since UCSF is a smoke-free campus, they do not allow the use of medical marijuana, even if it is vaporized.
This is quite laughable since a 2007 study by the University of California, San Francisco (that’s right, the same exact school) published in the Journal of the American Academy of Neurology found that “Using CO as an indicator, there was virtually no exposure to harmful combustion products using the vaporizing device. Since it replicates smoking’s efficiency at producing the desired THC effect using smaller amounts of the active ingredient as opposed to pill forms, this device has great potential for improving the therapeutic utility of THC.”
Apparently “virtually no exposure to harmful combustion products using the vaporizing device” actually means “particles … that are damaging to the lung.” How they drew that conclusion is anyone’s guess.
UCSF further claims, “Any particles from vapor and odor could have an impact on other patients and hospital employees,” even though this is contradicted by a study conducted by members of their own institution.
In reality, it is more likely that the exhaust from a passing car would have an impact on other patients and hospital employees.
The statement continues, “Under federal and state law, a physician is at legal risk related to any activity that could be construed as prescribing medical marijuana to a patient.”
This part is true; physicians indeed put themselves at risk when conducting “any activity that could be construed as prescribing medical marijuana to a patient,” however that was not what was happening at all, so it is wholly irrelevant.
The hospital has a valid argument based on the liability aspect of this situation, and if they would come right out and say that they did not want to put themselves at risk of legal action from the federal government or civil action of some kind, I would have a lot more respect for them. Instead, they chose to emphasize reasons which are wholly laughable.
During Raich’s interview with NBC Bay Area, they say that she appeared to have a seizure. Paramedics and the fire department were called to the scene, at which point Raich understandably refused to return to UCSF, instead going to St. Mary’s Hospital.
In a document filed in the United States District Court for the Northern District of California in 2002, Raich’s primary care physician Frank Henry Lucido, M.D. stated that Raich “presents a complex and complicated set of conditions. It is my opinion that Angel cannot be without cannabis as medicine because of the precipitous medical deterioration that would quickly develop.”
Dr. Lucido declared that “Angel will suffer imminent harm without access to cannabis.” This is likely due to Raich’s long list of quite serious medical conditions and the fact that, according to Dr. Lucido, “her body reacts with violent side effects to almost all pharmaceutical medications.”
He further explained that “Angel needs to medicate every two waking hours. If she misses a treatment, it could have dangerous repercussions for her health. She clearly loses weight, and would risk wasting syndrome and death, without cannabis. No one knows why she can’t hold onto her weight. Angel could become gravely ill if she loses too much more weight. Angel becomes debilitated from severe chronic pain. The pain is bad enough even with cannabis, but it flares up immediately and becomes unmanageable without cannabis.”
Dr. Lucido cites a total of six reasons why Raich needs access to cannabis, including its anti-tumor activity, the fact that it “works well for Angel in a way that no other medicine has or can be expected to” and the fact that “Angel has no reasonable legal alternative to cannabis for the effective treatment or alleviation of her medical conditions or symptoms associated with the medical conditions because she has tried essentially all other legal alternatives to cannabis and the alternatives have been ineffective or result in intolerable side effects.”
Apparently all of this wasn’t enough for the Supreme Court or UCSF which obviously does not care about the qualified professional medical opinion of a physician or the incomprehensible suffering Raich goes through every day.
Raich revealed on her website last year that she was dying from a condition known as radiation necrosis and expressed hope in the abilities of the doctors at UCSF Medical Center.
“Patient’s [sic] who get radiation necrosis do not survive, and there’s very little research,” Raich wrote. “I have a extremely [sic] complex medical condition and I can only hope the doctors at UCSF Medical Center can review my records and figure out what’s really happening inside my brain before I dye [sic] so I can at least have absolution at the end-of-life.”
This statement is especially troubling because she is obviously putting a considerable amount of faith in the abilities of doctors at UCSF Medical Center, the same place that showed her the door simply for using a medication that keeps her alive.
The federal government has been trampling all over state’s rights for some time now, especially when it comes to the issue of access to medical marijuana.
Unfortunately, it appears that UCSF Medical Center is joining the nonsensical opposition to medical marijuana, even going as far as to put out an official statement which is debunked by a study that was conducted by some of UCSF’s own doctors.
I cannot understand how anyone in the medical profession could so egregiously violate their Hippocratic Oath and plain common decency by treating a dying patient like this.
The treatment of Raich handed out by the UCSF Medical Center is nothing short of deplorable.
In the coming days I will attempt to get a statement from someone representing UCSF Medical Center addressing the fact that their statement makes claims which were contradicted by study conducted by some of their own doctors.
Hopefully I will get a response of some kind, but I’m not holding my breath just yet. It’s a lot easier to simply ignore challenges and facts rather than attempt to address them and likely fail to do so in the process, further delegitimizing the original claims.
The war on medical cannabis – which clearly has boundless medical applications – in the United States is a war on the health of Americans and it is a wholly corrupt practice.
This war, and the drug war in general, is a tremendous waste of non-existent taxpayer dollars and acts to tear apart families, fill prisons with non-violent offenders, and deny proper medical care to desperate patients like Raich all while empowering organized crime by promising massive profits for their activities.
Of course, it doesn’t hurt that the American government is actually directly involved in the illegal drug trade, or the wildly corrupt pharmaceutical industry and their completely compromised regulators who approve dangerous medications while cracking down on whistleblowers and making sure a natural, safe alternative stays illegal.