Drug would allow Billy Caldwell to suffer from his illness and save his life, say his family
The MP for the area where Billy Caldwell grew up has told MPs the epileptic boy’s life could be saved if cannabis oil could be legally imported for medicinal use in the UK.
The 10-year-old from County Antrim suffered from debilitating seizures for several years until the treatment – cannabis oil – was given to him by US doctors after exhausting all available forms of medication in his homeland.
Advocates say Billy is faring much better after the use of the oil and politicians from across Europe have expressed interest in allowing such a treatment in Britain.
Billy Caldwell: epileptic boy in Irish high court over power to grow cannabis – Politics live Read more
He is in the high court in Belfast today in a case about his access to the oil and campaigners in Ireland are already bringing legal action to have the Irish government roll out a national system for medicinal cannabis use.
But Ireland’s justice minister, Frances Fitzgerald, says Billy’s legal case “has not dealt with Irish law”, and said “it would be inappropriate” to interfere in it because it was a “private and personal matter” between Billy and his family.
Labour MP Chris Bryant, a specialist in children’s mental health who has adopted two daughters, said at a Westminster Hall debate about cannabis oil for medicinal use, that he hoped those who opposed it would at least watch some of the film Billy’s Game on TV.
“I don’t mean to sound cynical here,” he told the house. “But it is a terrific film, fantastic, and does not even give rise to a hint of the hysteria you would hear about Billy’s Law.”
He said that the mental health problems he had dealt with as a child had not stopped him from making a success of his life.
Bryant said he hoped people would do what he and his wife had done and vote against a law change in a way that would affect their own family’s interests.
He described Billy’s case as “outstanding” and said the treatment was not that dissimilar to his own use of cannabis, after he recovered from an obsessive compulsive disorder.
The MP’s view about the issue was not shared by MPs at Westminster Hall in the Commons. There were personal anecdotes about Billy’s struggle with his epilepsy, but the predominant feel was that the government should heed the child’s suffering.
Vicky Ford, the Labour MP for Bracknell, said people in her constituency had known about Billy’s suffering since 2007, when the family first visited Ireland.
“I cannot get a hankering to harm that family,” she said. “We see lots of things, we take little sweeties in our hand, but only now are we saying to the government ‘can we help?’ We can help as a nation of all faiths, of all creeds and none.”
She urged the government to respect the law and stop treating cancer patients like “criminals” and fight to keep Billy in the UK.
She said some of Billy’s family members were planning to follow him to the high court.