Cannabis compassion and cruelty
TV viewers were spoiled for choice last Sunday (August 4) if they wanted to find out more about medicinal cannabis, as Seven's Sunday Night and Nine's 60 Minutes simultaneously covered this issue.
Tamworth-made film High as Mike even got a mention as Olivia Newton-John spoke passionately on 60 Minutes about her use of cannabis to manage stage-four cancer symptoms. She also alluded to the many failings of the Australian "system".
What alarms me as a patient advocate is sitting back, reading the follow-ups and hearing such little regard for the personal and lived experiences of millions of human beings worldwide. People like Olivia and my late son Dan who use/d medicinal cannabis because it provides relief from serious pain and suffering.
Nobody else can judge infallibly what works for an individual whether they are a doctor or a do-gooder. I am not usually one for doctor bashing (my own father was one of humble esteem) but has the medical profession become so arrogant that they think that they cannot be wrong on this?
When I trained as a nurse in the 1980s, I learnt that to listen to the patient was essential and to include them in decisions about their care was not only empathetic but the only holistic and truly ethical approach. It saddens me that - it seems - patients can't expect this level of communication and respect from many of the doctors they have entrusted with their care, a relationship which for many may have lasted over years.
I believe the Australian Medical Association and other medical bodies and organisations show a level of disregard for facts and a penchant for what I regard as misinformation that is beyond disappointing.
Using the throwback lines of "there's not enough research and evidence", it's "as dangerous as heroin and ice", "it kills", it is just "the power of placebo" is just plain rubbish in my view - which five minutes on the United in Compassion (UIC) website or others like it would demonstrate.
Such a position of course also wilfully fails to acknowledge the reality - and the main lens through that the situation has got to be viewed - which is that while just a few thousand patients have managed to secure a legal prescription for cannabis across the whole of Australia, hundreds of thousands or more are using illegal products solely for medical purposes. And they are doing so simply to keep themselves well. All the moaning about "not enough evidence" doesn't change that reality an iota.
It demonstrates both a 'head in the sand' attitude together with a disregard for the welfare of sick Australians who risk criminal convictions and the possible dangers of untested products of unknown provenance outside of the healthcare system. Is this a responsible attitude? For me, it's reprehensible.
I have spoken to many confused and disappointed patients now since 2014 who feel strongly that they are being let down by Government and the medical fraternity. I have visited overseas, spoken to many researchers and doctors in countries like Israel, Spain, Canada, and the United States. I have even brought them to Australia to share their knowledge. There are plenty of professionals who have been working tirelessly, researching and prescribing medicinal cannabis for decades and who are excited beyond belief at the potential cannabis treatments that are evolving rapidly for problems such as the crisis of opiate addiction.
Are they all wrong because the conservative Australian medical fraternity knows better? To my knowledge the level of education about the endocannabinoid system among Australian doctors is generally less than the knowledge of their patients who on this issue have well and truly done their homework.
Cannabis is not completely harmless but ignoring the patient is downright dangerous because they will - and they are - using it anyway!
Lucy Haslam, Tamworth