If anyone needs additional proof that cannabis oil has the power to control the dangerous seizures often experienced by epilepsy patients, they should look no further than the tumultuous tale of 12-year-old Billy Caldwell.
The youngster from Northern Ireland, who suffers from a severe case of epilepsy, was released on Monday from the Chelsea and Westminster Hospital in London after the British government finally granted him temporary permission to treat his condition with the illegal oil.
But don’t get it twisted — the two-legged, suit and tie extensions of the governmental grind are not the heroes of this story. They are ones that put Billy’s life in jeopardy in the first place.
It was just days ago that border agents at Heathrow Airport caught up with Billy and his mother, Charlotte, as they returned from Canada with a brand spanking new batch of cannabis medicine. The two had been forced to seek emergency assistance in the northern nation after the UK government suspended a program last month that has allowed Billy to get prescription cannabis through the National Health Service since 2017.
It was at the airport that border goons seized the cannabis oil — leaving the kid without the medicine he needed to stay alive and functional. Billy has been using the oil to treat his condition for the past two years. His particular brand of medicine contains a high concentration of the non-intoxicating cannabidiol (CBD) and enough of the primary psychoactive tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) to make it a problem with the law. As it stands, the UK government holds the same position on cannabis as the United States. It is considered a Schedule I dangerous drug, and possession of the herb can bring down the heat.
Billy’s Seizures Return
The situation spiraled into a case of life and death late last week when Billy had to be rushed to the hospital after rescue medications were ineffective in bringing him out of what was reported to be a “massive intractable epileptic seizure.” He was transported to St. Mary’s Hospital in Paddington on Thursday evening and later to Chelsea and Westminster Hospital after his condition took a turn for the worse.
The only medicine that stood a chance at giving him his life back, according to his mother, was the seized cannabis oil. She told The Mirror that Billy had been experiencing 100 seizures a night before getting on a regular cannabis regimen. He had been 19 months seizure free when the UK government stopped them at the airport.
But despite the oil only being well within reach, the government refused to release it to the hospital.
“My son is dying. They are letting him die,” Charlotte said. “The only thing that can save him, his anti-epileptic medication, is sitting on a desk in the Home Office out of our reach.”
11th Hour Reprieval to Save Billy
But the British government finally caved.
On Saturday, Home Secretary Sajid Javid issued a 20-day license that allows Billy to be treated with the oil. He told the Associated Press that his decision to take action on this issue came after being advised by senior physicians responsible for Billy’s care that he was under a medical emergency and might not survive. Javid explained to the news source that his government’s priority was to ensure that Billy was given “the most effective treatment possible in a safe way.”
The media circus surrounding Billy’s case has forced UK officials to take action. Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt told the BBC “I don’t think anyone who followed that story could sensibly say that we are getting the law on this kind of thing right. I think everyone feels for the lady concerned, and of course there are many, many other people in that situation.”
Hunt, who believes the government has to “do something… quickly,” says a full review of the law will be conducted and should be finished up within the next couple of months.
“We are going to go through this process as quickly as we possibly can,” he said, “because, like everyone, we think these stories are totally heartbreaking.”
“The Home Office are not dragging their feet on this,” he added. “The Home Secretary has said he will review this issue.”
As for Billy, his health has vastly improved since being given access to a single bottle of the seized cannabis oil. There is speculation that the government could move to return all six bottles of medication. But it still remains to be seen whether the Home Office will allow him to continue using cannabis oil after it is finished with its review. If not, the kid will undoubtedly end up in the same position — clinging to life over the prohibition of a plant.
Mrs. Caldwell has offered to meet with health officials to ensure they have a full grip on the gravity of her medical demands.
“I want nobody in government, and nobody who has been impacted by massively outdated laws, to be under any impression that this is job done,” she told the Belfast Telegraph. “This is just the start.”
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