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Charlotte Caldwell in court battle for son's medicinal cannabis

Co Tyrone woman Charlotte Caldwell and her 13-year-old son Billy were at the High Court yesterday as part of her attempts to clarify the law around the treatment
Co Tyrone woman Charlotte Caldwell and her 13-year-old son Billy were at the High Court yesterday as part of her attempts to clarify the law around the treatment

By Alan Erwin

A mother seeking a judicial declaration that a GP can prescribe medicinal cannabis to her severely epileptic son has likened the ongoing uncertainty to "orchestrated cruelty".

Co Tyrone woman Charlotte Caldwell and her 13-year-old son Billy were at the High Court yesterday as part of her attempts to clarify the law around the treatment.

Proceedings were brought amid fears that he is about to run out of a privately-sourced medication.

The case was adjourned, however, after it emerged that a professor in paediatric neurology at Great Ormond Street Children's Hospital in London who backed its use for Billy is to carry out a fresh assessment on Friday.

A judge was also told draft guidance is due to reach the Health Minister by the end of the week.

Counsel for the family said the developments raised the possibility of a "third way" which could help to deal with the legal issues.

Outside court Mrs Caldwell, gave a guarded response.

"I'm cautiously optimistic that Billy's future care will be secured," she said.

But with no guarantees on how long a North American manufacturer will continue providing medication, his current supply runs out on July 5.

Mrs Caldwell insisted that she just wants to her son's NHS prescription reinstated.

"We have exhausted every avenue and I just find it completely and utterly tortuous because at the end of the day this is a little boy's life-saving medication," she added.

"For me it's like orchestrated cruelty. Somebody has made a decision not to prescribe Billy his life-saving medication. It's not a computer making the decision, it's a human being - probably a mother or father doing it."

In November last year the rules were relaxed to allow some cannabis-derived medicines to be prescribed to patients in the UK by specialist doctors in limited circumstances.

However, access to medication remains uncertain.

Mrs Caldwell is seeking a declaration that a Northern Ireland-based GP or clinician who is not on the specialist register can lawfully write prescriptions for cannabis-based medication under the direction of a consultant paediatrician with higher qualifications in epilepsy diagnosis and management.

The case was listed for a further hearing next week.

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