The mother of a toddler who suffers from intractable seizures is travelling to Barcelona next week to obtain the THC form of medicinal cannabis, as she fears his condition will “nosedive” at Christmas.
Noreen O’Neill, mother of two-year-old Michael, said her son is taking CBD oil, but he is at the maximum dosage for his bodyweight. She is concerned he will go downhill over Christmas and that doctors will be unable to do anything to save him if he presents at hospital.
Noreen says that, prior to taking CBD oil, Michael was unable to sit up, reach, roll, smile, or lift his arms, legs or head. He also could not swallow and was fed through his nose.
Ms O’Neill, who lives in Wilton in Cork, is travelling to Barcelona on Monday to meet with consultants who have seen Michael’s medical files and have agreed to give him the medication. Noreen says she is going public on her journey as she wants the process to be above board.
“I don’t want to sneak around,” she said. “They can stop me if they like. There is nowhere to go from here. I have been to three neurologists for Michael and they have all refused [to prescribe THC]. I have tried all the medications prescribed to him. None of them worked and they all had side effects.
“We will be home in Kerry for Christmas and I can’t have Michael’s condition going downhill without having something to give him. If he does nosedive, the hospital can’t do anything for him. I need to have the THC in my hand to give to him.”
Noreen says Michael was at “death’s door” when she first started giving him CBD oil last January. Now, he eats independently and has even gone horse riding.
Prior to starting CBD oil, Michael nearly lost his life on a flight from New York. The flight was diverted to Newfoundland in Canada, as Michael went into respiratory distress. The pharmaceutical medication prescribed to him had helped his seizures, but he had been silently aspirating his milk, as the muscles in his swallow phase were limp due to the drug. This resulted in him being unable to close off his airway.
Michael was admitted to hospital on January 3 of this year to start on an anticonvulsant. He was averaging up to 15 seizures a day.
Noreen decided to personally administer CBD oil to him on January 5. She says he was seizure-free three days later. He has not had a single acute hospital admission since his first dose.
The Department of Health has previously said that the decision to prescribe or not prescribe any treatment, including cannabis treatment, for an individual patient is strictly a decision for the treating clinician, in consultation with their patient, and that Minister for Health has no role in this clinical, decision-making process.
Yesterday in the Dáil, Solidarity TD Mick Barry raised the case and asked Tánaiste Simon Coveney if he felt any sense of shame for being a minister in a government which forces Irish women to go abroad for healthcare for their children.
In response, Mr Coveney said an expert reference group had drawn up operational, clinical and practice guidelines for healthcare professionals treating patients through the programme and had advised that cannabis oils should be used for the purpose of achieving accuracy and consistency of dosage for patients.