Doctor's call - ‘Put suffering ahead of polls’

A FORMER top-ranking Tamworth doctor has accused local leaders of political cowardice for refusing to back a family’s campaign to legalise medical marijuana.

Dr Peter Wakeford, the consulting physician at Tamworth hospital from 1967 to 2001, said the medical evidence supporting the benefits of marijuana in alleviating nausea and loss of appetite from chemotherapy was “indisputable”.

His comments come as the media frenzy surrounding the Haslam family’s crusade intensifies, with Sunday Night, Alan Jones, Triple J and other outlets picking up the story.

Dr Wakeford said it was critical political leaders put people’s suffering ahead of polling figures.

STRONG SUPPORT: Former Tamworth hospital physician Dr Peter Wakeford has backed the Haslam family’s campaign to decriminalise medical marijuana.  Photo: Gareth Gardner 300414GGB02

STRONG SUPPORT: Former Tamworth hospital physician Dr Peter Wakeford has backed the Haslam family’s campaign to decriminalise medical marijuana. Photo: Gareth Gardner 300414GGB02

“I have no respect for the opinions of people like the member for New England (Barnaby Joyce), Kevin Humphries and Jillian Skinner,” Dr Wakeford said.

“Until these people who are opposed see a loved one go through the unremitting pain of cancer they will never understand and they will continue to retreat into their political shells.

“They are not basing their views on sound medical science. They are terrified of the political backlash and are making poll-driven decisions.”

The remarks echo those of director of St Vincent’s drug and alcohol service Dr Alex Wodak, who last week told The Leader the medical evidence to support decriminalising marijuana for the dying was “utterly compelling”.

Dr Wakeford said the pain he had seen patients endure in his time at Tamworth hospital had affected him deeply. 

“There are some I will never forget – the tremendous nausea and pain that did not respond to the legal drugs available,” he said.

While he did not support legalising the drug recreationally, he said its continued prohibition for medical purposes was “nonsense”.

“It’s not justifiable to make it available for recreational use because it can retard a person’s intellect and their motivation and make them more susceptible to psychosis.

“But we can strictly control it and provide to those who need it, just as we do other drugs like morphine.

“The reality is, it does a good job in these specific instances and just because it’s not on the therapeutic goods list doesn’t mean we can’t change that.”

Tamworth businesswoman Lucy Haslam, whose son Dan has terminal bowel cancer and uses the drug for relief, said she should not be forced onto the black market to help him.

“It’s hard because I’ve had to buy significant quantities so he can make the oil,” Mrs Haslam said.

She said Dan was “excited and overwhelmed” by the attention the campaign has attracted.

“He says he’s suddenly got something to live for but the reality is, he’s still battling cancer,” Mrs Haslam said.

A petition supporting the Haslam’s case has garnered close to 25,000 signatures.

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