Belfast Telegraph

Government will have blood on its hands if medicinal cannabis is not prescribed, says father of ill child

By Allan Preston

A former DUP health minister has said the Home Office should have listened to Billy Caldwell's mother as he called for further trials into medical cannabis.

Edwin Poots, whose late brother had severe epilepsy, tweeted that he welcomed Sajid Javid's decision to allow the Co Tyrone youngster to use cannabis oil.

He wrote: "If the child's doctor is convinced that is good enough for me."

The DUP MLA added: "Trusting he recovers after a series of seizures, Home Office should have listened to his mother sooner.

"We would support more accredited trials to establish the facts.

"Morphine is an opiate as are heart drugs, so medicinal cannabis is no less acceptable if it works and is used as prescribed for medical purposes."

Meanwhile, the father of a Northern Ireland girl with severe epilepsy has said the Government "will have blood on its hands" if they do not act to secure medicinal cannabis for his daughter.

Jorja Emerson (2) suffered from around six seizures yesterday afternoon while her father Robin (30) met with the DUP MLA Paula Bradshaw at Stormont.

Each attack causes Jorja's head and eyes to roll backwards and can at times be painful.

On Sunday she suffered more than 30.

Yesterday, the Home Office announced it would establish an expert panel to advise ministers on any individual access to cannabis-based medication.

Home Secretary Sajid Javid also used "exceptional powers" over the weekend to return confiscated medication to Castlederg mum Charlotte Caldwell for her son Billy (12). Both Mr Emerson and Ms Caldwell said the Government had been misleading after a leaked memo to the Northern Ireland Secretary suggested it was the Home Office instead of Stormont that was responsible for authorising imported medication.

As Mr Emerson visited Stormont yesterday with Jorja her seizures continued.

"All these seizures are causing damage to Jorja," he said. "Any one of these episodes means she could continually stay in seizure and not come out. That could kill her - she was in intensive care twice last year and I was told she's not coming out.

"We can't have that situation again. There's a drug here that can potentially save her life and I need access to that."

Like Ms Caldwell, he's hoping to make a trip to Canada where the medication is legal.

"I need to be assured I can come back home and not have this drug taken off us."

He thanked Ms Bradley for meeting them, but said he needed more than sympathy.

He added: "There are lots of children having seizures and they're dying.

"If the Government sit back and allow that to happen they need to understand they have blood on their hands."

Ms Bradley said the matter was a healthcare issue and supported the legislative review, with evidence based testing.

Meanwhile, she supports individual patients receiving the medication in "exceptional cases".

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