Mother of epileptic 12-year-old demands Home Office be stripped of powers to regulate medicine after cannabis oil 'ordeal'

Home Secretary bows to fierce pressure and uses ‘exceptional power’ to allow Billy Caldwell to be treated

Rob Merrick
Deputy Political Editor
Saturday 16 June 2018 13:46 BST
Billy Caldwell's mum welcomes UK allowing cannabis oil epileptic son

The mother of severely epileptic Billy Caldwell has demanded that no other family suffer her “ordeal”, after he was finally allowed to receive life-saving cannabis oil medication.

Charlotte Caldwell called for medicinal cannabis to be legalised after the home secretary bowed to fierce public pressure and used an “exceptional power” to enable her 12-year-old son to be treated.

A batch of the banned drug was confiscated from the family at Heathrow airport on Monday – but will now be released, after a storm of protest.

“This is a wake-up call for our country. In the 21st century, we need to have a more humane policy – not panic measures,” Ms Caldwell said.

The Home Office should “no longer play any role” in future decisions about whether medicine should be prescribed in similar circumstances.

“Today, this was about Billy but, from tomorrow, this is about the thousands of other children and families in our country,” she told a press conference outside the hospital where Billy is being treated.

“No other family should have to go through this sort of ordeal – travelling halfway round the world to get medicine that should be freely available to our desperately ill children.”

Ms Caldwell, 50, thanked “people around the world who have sent love, prayers and messages of support”, over the last few days.

On Monday the mother, from Castlederg, Co Tyrone, flew from Canada to the UK with her son and a six-month supply of the medication used to treat up to 100 seizures a day

Billy was admitted into Chelsea and Westminster Hospital in London on Friday after his seizures “intensified” without the medication.

Ms Caldwell then accused policing minister Nick Hurd of having “likely signed my son’s death warrant”, ahead of a meeting.

Sajid Javid, the home secretary, said he was using an “exceptional power” to allow Billy to be treated, rather than changing the law to remove the drug’s illegal status.

He was forced to act amid growing anger and disbelief that the life of a severely ill boy appeared to be being placed in danger by harsh rules.

“This is a very complex situation, but our immediate priority is making sure Billy receives the most effective treatment possible in a safe way,” Mr Javid said.

“We have been in close contact with Billy’s medical team overnight and my decision is based on the advice of senior clinicians who have made clear this is a medical emergency.

“The policing minister met with the family on Monday and since then has been working to reach an urgent solution.”

Ms Caldwell credits the oil with keeping the boy’s seizures at bay, saying he was seizure-free for more than 300 days while using it.

Billy started the treatment in 2016 in the US, where medical marijuana is legal, and became the first person in the UK to receive a prescription after his local GP in Northern Ireland, Brendan O’Hare, began writing scripts.

Dr O’Hare was summoned to a meeting with Home Office officials recently and told to stop.

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