WEED FEED / John Ross Ferrara / Monday, Nov. 27 @ 8:50 a.m.

Weed Feed: Doctors Document ‘First Reported Pediatric Death Associated With Cannabis Exposure,’ Misleading Headlines Ensue



Weed. Wikimedia.

A medical case report claiming that the death of an 11-month-old boy from Denver was associated with the high levels of THC found in the child’s system is stirring up misleading headlines.

Post-intubation chest radiograph of the 11-month-old child. From the Nappe/Hoyte report. Creative Commons license.

The incident occurred in 2015, when the child was reportedly taken to the hospital after suffering from seizures and died of myocarditis (inflammation of the heart muscle) shortly after.

However, the case report, which poison control doctors Thomas Nappe and Christopher Hoyte published in March, left the cause of child’s death open to interpretation.

“As of this writing, this is the first reported pediatric death associated with cannabis exposure,” Nappe and Hoyte wrote in the report.

This sentence allowed news outlets to run with spicy headlines, like “Baby Boy is first marijuana overdose death, doctors claim.” A flurry of news reports were put out on the case earlier this month, some featuring retracting statements from the doctors.

“We’re not saying definitively that marijuana caused the myocarditis,” Hoyte told the Cannabist earlier this month. “All we are saying is we didn’t find any other reasons. So we need to study this further.”

Other doctors, like emergency medicine specialist Noah Kaufman, who works out of Northern Colorado, have said Nappe and Hoyte’s claims are too bold.

“That statement is too much. It’s too much as far as I’m concerned,” Kaufman told KUSA reporters. “Because that is saying confidently that this is the first case. ‘We’ve got one!’ And I still disagree with that.”

Repeat electrocardiogram showing disorganized rhythm in the child’s heart before death.

He expanded on his argument in a Washington Post article that was published on Nov. 17.

“You just can’t make those statements because then what happens is lay people say, ‘Oh my God, did you hear a kid died from marijuana poisoning?’ and it can be sensationalized,” Kaufman told the Washington Post. “It’s not based on reality. It’s based on somebody kind of jumping the gun and making a conclusion, and scientifically you can’t do that.”

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The Weed Feed is a weekly column written by John Ross Ferrara.

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