Let me trial medicinal marijuana, says dying man

Source: Newcastle Herald

FOR Nola McGrath anything that can relieve her husband’s pain, or save his life, is a welcome haven.

The McGrath family have  been going through hell for the past seven months as they deal with father-of-three Clem McGrath’s brain cancer, which has spread aggressively.

Doctors have given him only a few months to live and Mrs McGrath wants the option of getting him medicinal marijuana, in oil form, to see if it can help.

Yet under Australian law the plant’s cultivation, distribution and use is classed as illegal, even if it’s purely for medical purposes.

‘‘Nothing is working: he’s tried chemotherapy and radiotherapy and now they’ve told us no more can be done’’ Mrs McGrath said. ‘‘I’d like them to introduce it. He has told me he would be willing to trial it and if it can’t hurt him then why not?

‘‘After all, he has nothing to lose but everything to gain.’’

Mrs McGrath is frustrated with the lack of public discussion in Australia, especially when medicinal marijuana has been made legal in other parts of the world.

There are  at least 21 states in America where the drug is handed out for medicinal purposes and it is also available in countries such as New Zealand, Canada, the UK and Germany.

‘‘We’ve heard stories about how people’s lives have changed after taking it,’’ Mrs McGrath said. ‘‘I know people who have seen friends or family recover from cancer since taking marijuana oil.

‘‘To see my husband, to see what he has to go through ... our kids are watching their father wither away. ‘I just don’t understand why it’s not happening here. He would love to be here in June to meet his second granddaughter.’’

In May last year, a cross-party parliamentary committee unanimously recommended allowing terminally ill patients and people with AIDS to use up to 15grams of the drug for medical purposes.

Yet the state government ruled out the proposal, claiming there was insufficient evidence of the drug’s usefulness in treating medical conditions or alleviating pain.

The move followed a similar period of inactivity from the NSW government in 2000 when then-NSW Premier Bob Carr commissioned a report on medicinal cannabis.

Again, the report recommended its introduction but the government didn’t act. Mrs McGrath doesn’t want history to repeat itself.

Originally from Port Macquarie, Mr McGrath, who is only 55, was training for the City to Surf when he was diagnosed.

He went in for surgery last year and  his condition has quickly deteriorated.

The family made a decision to move him to Hunter Valley Private Hospital so he could be closer to his three children, Lachlan, 21, Kieran, 26, and Lauren, 28.

‘‘It was very aggressive and moved very quickly,’’ Mrs McGrath said. ‘‘He’s fading away.’’

It’s been a tough ride for the McGraths and the family want to see government action.

They don’t expect marijuana to be legalised recreationally and they don’t expect Mr McGrath to be able to smoke a joint or a bong.

They have been looking at examples in the media where epileptic sufferers have dramatically improved their quality of life since taking medicinal cannabis and are looking into other cancer patients’ experiences.

‘‘If it’s just for medical purposes then what’s the harm?’’ Mrs McGrath asked.

Legal cannabis sought for cancer patients

ORGANISATIONS that know the devastating effects of cancer better than most have put their whole-hearted support behind the introduction of medicinal marijuana.

The NSW government rejected recommendations for legalisation from a parliamentary committee last year, frustrating advocates.

Cancer Voices NSW spokeswoman Sally Crossing said it had been a ‘‘great disappointment’’.

‘‘Around the world there’s lots of international research that shows it works,’’ she said.

‘‘The government were [concerned] by whether people would abuse it. But it’s not difficult to ensure it’s used properly. It would be prescribed by a doctor and we want to see it in pill form.’’

Ms Crossing said there was no substance in arguments that medicinal legalisation would increase recreational marijuana use and said there was a stigma against the drug.

‘‘It’s just another medicine,’’ she said.

Morphine, cocaine and amphetamines are all administered in some form medicinally but remain illegal for recreational use.

Cancer Council NSW regional manager Shayne Connell believes marijuana is automatically looked at in a less favourable light.

‘‘No other [medical] trial is as political,’’ he said. ‘‘This is not about legalising smoking marijuana, we want to separate the issue. We’re not talking about letting people smoke a bong.’’

Mr Connell said he was in favour of using a mouth spray.   While mouth spray Sativex is currently trialled in multiple sclerosis patients, it has not been approved for cancer patients.

The facts

Sativex is a mouth spray produced from cannabis in the United Kingdom.

The product minimises the ‘‘high’’ usually attributed to marijuana use and has been registered by Australia’s Therapeutic Goods Administration to treat spasticity attributed to multiple sclerosis.

It can not be legally approved as a prescribed drug because it is  listed on the National Poisons Schedule.

The final regulation of drugs on the schedule is the state government’s responsibility.

CAMPAIGNING: Nola McGrath and husband Clem, who has terminal brain cancer. Picture: Dean Osland

CAMPAIGNING: Nola McGrath and husband Clem, who has terminal brain cancer. Picture: Dean Osland