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'Billy's case pulled on their heartstrings': Cannabis oil treatment for Tyrone boy approved

Billy Caldwell’s mother had met with UK government officials to discuss returning his medicine earlier this week.

Charlotte Caldwell and her son Billy outside the Home Office in London ahead of a meeting with Minister of State Nick Hurd.
Charlotte Caldwell and her son Billy outside the Home Office in London ahead of a meeting with Minister of State Nick Hurd.
Image: Yui Mok

Updated Jun 16th 2018, 1:33 PM

THE UK GOVERNMENT has agreed to return medicinal cannabis back to a 12-year-old boy who suffers from epileptic fits, days after it was confiscated from his mother at Heathrow airport.

Billy Caldwell, who’s from Tyrone, suffered “back-to-back” seizures after medicnal cannabis was confiscated on Monday from his mother as she returned on a flight from Canada.

The UK Home Secretary said that he used “exceptional power” to ensure that a license to allow Billy to be treated with cannabis oil.

Charlotte Charlotte Caldwell speaking to reporters outside the hospital where her son is being treated. Source: Sky News

Speaking to reporters gathered outside the Chester and Westminster Hospital where Billy is being treated, Charlotte said that she didn’t want “any other family or any other child to go through this”.

“No other family should have to go through this sort of ordeal – travelling halfway across the world to get medicine which should be freely available to our children.

“They should give parents their right back to hope, and for children who are suffering from this depleting condition, they should be given back their right to a better quality of life.

This is a wake up call for a more humane policy, not panic measures. I hope they reflect on what they put our family through and that they bring forward emergency legislation [on medicinal cannabis use].

When asked about why she thought the Home Office approved the use of medicinal cannabis in their case, Charlotte said: “I truly believe that someone in the Home Office has a heart and that Billy’s case pulled on their heartstrings.”

After her son was admitted to hospital yesterday, Charlotte told Sky News that refusing to allow her son to be treated with cannabis oil was ”callous treatment” by the UK government.

Earlier, Sinn Féin MP for West Tyrone Órfhlaith Begley tweeted that she received official confirmation from the UK Home Office that Billy will receive his medicine back.

I’m delighted to say that I have just spoken with Charlotte to tell her that I have received official confirmation that Billy is going to receive his medication and it is on its way.
Very relieved that our persistence has prevailed!

In a statement to journalists, Begley said that she was “gutted” that it had taken for Billy’s condition to deteriorate, and that there had been a lot of shifting blame between the government and health system.

She said that the last update she received was that the medication “was in the car park” of the hospital “so it should be any moment now that he will receive the medication”.

The UK Home Office released a statement earlier saying that it was “deeply sympathetic” with Billy’s case and was “in contact with his medical team”. It had said that if the team advise a particular course of action, the Home Office would be “available to consider that advice”.

Cannabis in Ireland

The debate about the legalisation of cannabis for medical use has been raised in Ireland, it’s been the story of Ava and Vera Twomey which has raised the debate most recently.

Vera’s eight-year-old daughter Ava suffers from a rare form of epilepsy which is potentially lethal. The condition previously pushed Ava into cardiac arrest and into an eight-day coma.

After months of intense campaigning, Health Minister Simon Harris approved a license for Ava to use medicinal cannabis – she’s now one of seven people in the country with such a license.

Twomey said that Ava is now “doing wonderful” and experiences no seizures.

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