Two poison control doctors who listed an 11-month-old boy’s cause of death as damage to his heart muscle claim that it was brought on by ingesting marijuana. Doctors Thomas Nappe and Christopher Hoyte, who published their report in the journal Clinical Practice and Cases in Emergency Medicine, said that the only thing they could find in the boy’s system at the time of his 2015 death was marijuana.
His official cause of death was listed as myocarditis, which is a rare occurrence in children. Hoyte and Nappe, both of the Rocky Mountain Poison and Drug Center, said that they ruled out all other known causes of the condition, which includes bacteria, Coxsackievirus, fungi and parasites, the Reno Gazette Journal reported.
“The only thing that we found was marijuana,” Hoyte told the news outlet. “High concentrations of marijuana in his blood. And that’s the only thing we found. The kid never really got better. And just one thing led to another and the kid ended up with a heart stopped. And the kid stopped breathing and died.”
The report was published in March and did not identify where the boy’s death occurred, nor reveal his identity. The doctors concluded that the case “was the first reported pediatric death associated with cannabis exposure.” However, others in the field question their findings, including a 2016 paper that said marijuana could not be determined as the cause of myocarditis, the news outlet reported.
“That statement is too much,” Dr. Noah Kaufman, an emergency medicine specialist in Northern Colorado, told the Reno Gazette Journal. “Because that is staying confidently that this is the first case. ‘We’ve got one!’ And I still disagree with that.”
But the two contend that they explored every other potential avenue before drawing their conclusion, although they admitted that there are some causes of myocarditis that cannot be tested for.
“The child didn’t leave the house between being normal and being sick,” Hoyte told the Reno Gazette Journal. “The child had THC in the blood and in the urine and there were marijuana products in the house. I feel very comfortable with the workup that we did and how much we ruled out in this particular case.”
Kaufman also questions what kind of product the THC was contained in, and how the boy ingested it, suggesting that he may have been allergic to another substance that triggered the myocarditis. He told the news outlet that despite his doubts about marijuana causing the boy’s death, the case is an important reminder for parents to keep substances away from children.
“Even if I’m not convinced that it could kill your kid, you need to be really careful because it could make them really sick,” he told the Reno Gazette Journal. “It needs to be locked up away in a medicine chest because it can cause seizures. It can cause real big problems in kids that can lead to other problems.”