The Tyrone GP who wrote a groundbreaking prescription for medicinal cannabis this week said he did so because his patient’s welfare outweighed all other issues.
Dr Brendan O’Hare of Castlederg Group Surgery made the recommendation that 11-year-old Billy Caldwell, who suffers from life-threatening epilepsy, should continue to receive medicinal cannabis oil which is illegal in Northern Ireland.
Billy had been to Los Angeles earlier this year where he responded extremely well to the oil, which can be used legally in California.
However, the supplies his family brought home were about to run out which prompted Dr O’Hare to sign a prescription on Wednesday for his patient to continue to use the drug which has seen him go for more than 80 days without a seizure.
Dr O’Hare said his action was in response to a “crisis” situation.
Some media sources reported it was the first time in the UK that medicinal cannabis oil had been prescribed by the NHS, though Dr O’Hare said it was his understanding it would be paid for.
He said the prescription would go to Dr James Linden of Green Light Medicine in Dublin, who would provide Billy with the medicinal cannabis oil he requires to keep seizures at bay.
Along with Billy’s mother Charlotte, Dr O’Hare said a number of avenues had been explored to source more oil when his current supply was exhausted.
But with the medicine due to run out today, and no firm responses from those bodies who had been approached for help in facilitating the continuation of Billy’s supply in Northern Ireland, Dr O’Hare made a decisive intervention.
While he said he didn’t have permission from a higher authority to write the prescription he said he did so because of the unique circumstances of Billy’s case.
He said: “There are times when the welfare of a patient supercedes other issues.
“I’m confident in my decision. I could not live with the alternative of Billy having another life-threatening seizure when there is evidence that this medicinal oil is having a positive affect.
“Up until the treatment he received in LA specialists had been unable to control Billy’s condition. I’ve seen such a change in him since returning from America.”
Billy’s mother Charlotte offered her heartfelt thanks to Dr O’Hare as well as Green Light Medicine and Sinn Fein members, including the party leader Michelle O’Neill, who are pushing to have medicinal cannabis made legal in Northern Ireland.