PARK CITY, Utah — Riley Hancey, who was denied a lung transplant from the University of Utah after traces of marijuana were found in his system, has died from complications following a lung transplant surgery at a hospital in Philadelphia, according to his family.
Riley Hancey was suffering from a severe case of pneumonia he received around last Thanksgiving that left his lungs collapsed.
He needed a lung transplant but was denied a spot on the transplant list at the University of Utah hospital because he had tested positive for THC — the main intoxicant found in marijuana.
Officials for the University of Utah said in a statement that they follow international guidelines and “do 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.”
Riley Hancey’s father Mark Hancey said his son had smoked marijuana with his friends on Thanksgiving of 2016 but had been drug-free for a year up until then.
Turned down by the University of Utah Hospital, the family searched the country for a hospital willing to perform the operation.
Two months after being turned down at the University of Utah, the University of Pennsylvania agreed to perform the transplant.
Riley Hancey was flown out and the transplant surgery was performed.
Mark Hancey initially expressed optimism, saying that Riley Hancey “looked so healthy,” but then on Saturday, the family announced in a statement that Riley Hancey had died from complications following the lung transplant at the University of Pennsylvania Hospital
“It has been a long battle to save Riley’s life. We know that in our hearts we gave him every opportunity to survive. He will live in our hearts forever. Riley is now free to climb every mountain, ski the backcountry, go fishing and run every river. He will continue to do so with his family in spirit,” the family said.
Mark Hancey did not elaborate on the cause of his son’s death when contacted by KSL on Sunday but did stress that the medical staff at the University of Pennsylvania “did everything they could to save my son’s life … they were phenomenal.”
The family has asked that everybody perform a random act of kindness to honor Riley Hancey.