Shadow Minister Who Lost Son To Epilepsy Begs For Cannabis Oil Law Change

Andy McDonald's son Rory died in 2006.
Andy McDonald with his son Rory, who died age 16
Andy McDonald with his son Rory, who died age 16
Andy McDonald with his son Rory who died age 16

A Labour MP who suffered the “unbearable pain” of losing a son to epilepsy has begged ministers to give doctors power to administer medicinal cannabis.

Shadow Transport Secretary Andy McDonald, whose 16-year-old son Rory died in 2006, has written to Home Secretary Sajid Javid asking him to liberalise the law “in the hope that further deaths can be avoided”.

The Middlesbrough MP said that while he and his wife, Sally, did not rely on cannabis oil to treat Rory, they tried every possible medication regime to save their son, including the Ketogenic diet.

But Rory eventually fell into “status” - a prolonged epileptic episode - and never recovered.

The couple have a second son, Freddie, 23, who also suffers from epilepsy and requires round-the-clock care.

In his letter to the government, McDonald calls on ministers to take “all necessary steps” to ensure the “secure” supply of treatment.

He joins a growing coalition of MPs, doctors and medical experts who believe cannabis-derived substances can improve the lives of those living with intractable epilepsy.

He said: “I am firmly of the view that when paediatricians and neurologists are struggling with intractable epilepsy cases, if in their considered medial view, cannabis oil would be efficacious, then they should be permitted to administer it, safe in the knowledge that it is lawful to do so.

Billy Caldwell with his mother Charlotte.
Billy Caldwell with his mother Charlotte.
PA Wire/PA Images

“I make no comment about the administration of cannabis oil more widely and restrict my appeal to these highly specific cases, but speaking as a parent who lost a beloved son to intractable epilepsy I have to speak out in the hope that further deaths can be avoided and that families are spared the unbearable pain of losing a child.

“I implore you to take all necessary steps to offer some hope to many families across the UK who are in similar situations to the distressing cases we have heard about over the last several days.”

Javid raised hopes that the government would be willing to liberalise the law after he granted an emergency licence for Billy Caldwell, from Northern Ireland and said a review should be carried out “as quickly as we possibly can”.

The 12-year-old’s condition became “life-threatening” last week, just days after his mother, Charlotte, had a six-month supply of cannabis oils confiscated by customs officials at Heathrow Airport.

I’ve written to the Home Secretary urging him to allow legal prescriptions of cannabis oil for medical purposes.

As a parent who lost a son to intractable epilepsy, I'm speaking out in the hope that further deaths can be avoided & families are spared the pain of losing a child.

— Andy McDonald MP (@AndyMcDonaldMP) June 18, 2018

But Prime Minister Theresa May poured cold water on the idea of a full-scale review, despite Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt confirming he would support a change in the law.

Asked about the issue following a speech on NHS funding in London, May said only that the option already existed to provide licences for the medical use of cannabis on the basis of clinical advice.

“Do we need to look at these cases and consider what we’ve got in place? Yes,” the PM added.

“But what needs to drive us in all these cases has to be what clinicians are saying about these issues.

“There’s a very good reason why we’ve got a set of rules around cannabis and other drugs, because of the impact that they have on people’s lives, and we must never forget that.”


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