Riley Hancey hospital
Riley Hancey was denied life-saving surgery after marijuana was found in his system.

A teenager who was denied a lung transplant because he had traces of marijuana in his system has died after failed surgery.

Riley Hancey, 19, from Salt Lake City, needed a double lung transplant after a battle with a heavy flu led to pneumonia, before he then contracted the rare fatal lung infection in November 2016.

Despite being described as a "healthy teen" who enjoyed both winter and summer sports, including cycling and skiing, both of his lungs collapsed ten days after being admitted into hospital.

Hancey, who was working in Utah for his brother at a ski resort, needed emergency surgery and was placed on the transplant list by the University of Utah Hospital.

But tests showed traces of marijuana in his system, causing the hospital to cancel planned treatment and leaving his parents and three siblings stunned.

The ban on surgery was upheld despite Clinicians at the University of Utah hospital warning that Hancey would die if they did not proceed with surgery.

In a general statement, a hospital spokesman said: "We 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."

But after a crowdfunding campaign Hancey was flown to the University of Philadelphia after it agreed to carry out the transplant and on 29 March surgery took place and he received new lungs.

Only last week Hancey was expected to make a slow but full recovery and possibly return to his outdoors lifestyle in around a year.

Riley Hancey
Riley Hancey, 19, was a keen cyclist and skier. Facebook / Riley Hancey

But on Saturday Hancey passed away following complications from the surgery, report The Mirror.

A statement posted by the family on his Youcaring fundraising page, read: "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 back country, go fishing, and run every river. He will continue to do so with his family in spirit.

"In his honor, we ask that you take a moment to do a random act of kindness for someone. Riley's kind spirit, laughter, and smile will be deeply missed by all that knew him."

Before the teenager died Hancey's father, Mark Hancey, remained adamant his son was not a frequent cannabis user, and claimed the doctor at the hospital had been less than considerate when explaining that his son would die.

He alleges a doctor told his son: "You will die. You better get your affairs in order," at which point the teenager broke down in tears.

Alyson Martin, national cannabis reporter at BuzzFeed News, wrote that when Hancey was relocated to Pennsylvania, he was prescribed Marinol, a synthetic form of Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) that is FDA approved, to stimulate his appetite after his operation.

Ironically, THC is the psychoactive ingredient in cannabis and the exact compound that allowed his former doctor in Utah to abandon his treatment.