Like Billy Caldwell’s mother, I want to try anything that might help stop my child’s seizures. At the moment, I can’t
Billy Caldwell is a 12-year-old boy with severe epilepsy. Last week, British airport officials confiscated the cannabis oil his mother was using to treat his condition, because the tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) it contains is illegal in the UK. He ended up in hospital after his seizures intensified. After the intervention of Billy’s doctors, the home secretary, Sajid Javid, has allowed the return of the drug on the grounds that this situation was a “medical emergency”. Today William Hague, who advocated a “zero-tolerance” approach to cannabis when he was Tory leader, says he has changed his mind, and that Billy’s case “provides one of those illuminating moments when a longstanding policy is revealed to be inappropriate”. And, in a statement to the Commons, Javid proposed a government review of the use of cannabis for medicinal purposes.
I’m pleased about this – and feel particular sympathy for the Caldwell family. My daughter Sia is 17 years old and, like Billy, experiences severe seizures. Sia had her first when she was a little over two years old. Initially we were told it was a febrile seizure resulting from a high temperature; then that she’d probably grow out of it, or that the right medication would provide seizure control. In the beginning, her seizures came occasionally, out of the blue. Then they were monthly. Now they happen daily. They knock her over, throw her off her chair, make her unable to sleep, and keep her permanently exhausted.