By Cate McCurry
A top addiction specialist said he is “ashamed” of his profession as it has failed families in Ireland who are forced to travel abroad to access cannabis-based medicinal products.
Garrett McGovern, a doctor who specialises in drug and alcohol addiction, said it was a disgrace that parents have to fight for medication that is “immeasurably changing” the lives of their sick children.
Dr McGovern, a medical director of the Priority Medical Clinic in Dublin, was speaking as medicinal cannabis campaigners and mothers of sick children called for Health Minister Simon Harris to lift the “effective embargo” on a bill that would legalise the drug.
A year ago, the Dáil passed the Medicinal Use Regulation Bill on to the detailed scrutiny stage, but there has been a delay in rolling out the scheme.
In an emotional plea, Vera Twomey, mother of eight-year-old Ava, who has epilepsy, called for greater access to medicinal cannabis.
The mother, from Co Cork, is forced to travel to Holland every three months to access the medication. Without it, Ms Twomey said, there would be “catastrophic consequences” for Ava’s health.
Dr McGovern said: “As I sit here today, watching this emotional panel, I am actually ashamed to be a doctor.
“I am ashamed of my profession today. They have let the women at this top table down.
“It’s a human rights issue and it’s an absolute disgrace.
“We need to proliferate the number of people around this table and we need to make it a mainstream issue. In Ireland, we have a history of exporting problems out.
“I’m proud of all of you. I don’t think anyone in this room can understand what you guys are going through.
Ms Twomey, whose daughter suffers from a severe form of epilepsy called Dravet syndrome, secured a licence so Ava could receive cannabidiol (CBD) oil and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) oil.
She called for Mr Harris to provide legislative change so that parents and children can access the medication locally.
“Our family has to leave the country every three months, we have to reapply for our licence for medical cannabis every three months,” she said.
“This is very distressing and disturbing to the whole family environment to be leaving every 12 weeks.
“Any disruption in supply to Ava’s medication could have catastrophic consequences for her health if there is a breakdown in supply in Holland.
“We are not getting support and being driven out of the country. That’s not good enough. We want THC and we want CBD in the proper format because we want the best for our kids.
“My daughter is as important a person as any other person in this State and she has the right to be respected. I want Simon Harris to do the right thing.”
People Before Profit TD Gino Kelly said: “This unnecessary hold up is preventing children and others who could benefit from access to medicinal cannabis from obtaining it.
“What is needed is for the Medicinal Cannabis Bill to be allowed progress to the committee stage where it can be scrutinised and if necessary amended.”