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UK Mom Calls on Government To Approve Medical Cannabis For Her Son

A.J. Herrington

By A.J. Herrington

May 31, 2022

Sarah Sugden's son laying in a hospital bed

Courtesy of Sarah Sugden

The mother of a young boy with severe epilepsy is calling on the U.K. government to provide access to medical cannabis for her son, with hopes that people around the world will join the call for change. 

Sarah Sugden, from the city of Hull in East Yorkshire, has been trying to gain approval from the U.K.’s National Health Service to provide a medical cannabis prescription for her three-year-old son Isaac. Isaac has a severe form of

known as Lujan-Fryns syndrome, which can cause him up to 80 seizures a day. Sugden has tried more than a dozen antiepileptic drugs, none of which have successfully helped the boy. But the NHS’s severe restrictions on medical cannabis have left the boy without adequate treatment.

“It’s just become so political,”

. “All the while, my child is suffering. He could die from one of these seizures any day. We just need people to apply some common sense. There is living, breathing proof this drug works to reduce seizures.”

In an attempt to cut through all the red tape, Sugden has started a petition calling on Health Secretary Sajid Javid to help her son. In 2018, Javid, who was Home Secretary at the time, announced that cannabis-based medicines would be made available to some patients. After receiving advice from medical experts, Javid said that medicinal cannabis products would be rescheduled under U.K. drug laws and clinical specialists would be permitted to prescribe them for patients “with an exceptional clinical need.”

But since then, the NHS has only approved a few prescriptions for medical cannabis on a case-by-case basis. Sugden’s request, including an appeal to an exceptional circumstances panel, was denied.

“It has worked for hundreds of children in the same situation as Isaac with rare epilepsies,” she said. “Why not try it?”

Sarah and her son take a selfie
Courtesy of Sarah Sugden

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Few Options for Patients and Families

Hull MP Karl Turner has written to Javid, asking for him to take action for Isaac and the thousands of families unsuccessfully trying to obtain medical cannabis for their ill children. In the meantime, Sugden has also been unsuccessful securing a prescription from a private clinician, which would require her to pay for the medicine herself. Traveling to the Netherlands is also a possibility, although one that carries its own challenges and risks.

“At the moment, with the way it is, I would have to go abroad to get it, then break the law bringing it back,” Sugden said. “It would be confiscated and I’d have to explain the situation, which would be incredibly stressful. As a mum, I’m going to do anything it takes. We seem to have lost all common sense and the Government needs to intervene to say to doctors, ‘it’s okay to prescribe this medication – it’s completely legal.’”

In a

calling on the U.K. government to grant access to medical cannabis, Sugden wrote, “to my frustration and dismay, it seems that the guidance from the NHS and various medical bodies appears to have resulted in a near-total block on NHS prescriptions. To the best of my knowledge, there have been only 3 such NHS prescriptions since 2018. And the few private clinics that could help appear to have closed their books to new cases like ours. We feel abandoned.” 

So far, Sugden’s petition has garnered more than 80,000 signatures from people joining the call for relief for Isaac. She invites others who wish “to get a fair system for treatment” to join her in signing the petition.

“I just want him to have that opportunity to have a quality of life,”

. “That’s all I am asking for.”

Sugden has also set up a

to help pay for her son’s private medical treatment, writing “Isaac needs the help now and unfortunately what he needs the U.K. doesn’t provide freely.” So far, the campaign has raised more than £3,700. 

A.J. Herrington

About The Author

A.J. Herrington

HIGH THERE MISSION

WE’RE A CREATIVE COMMUNITY — EXPLORING THE SCIENCE, CRAFT, AND CULTURE OF CANNABIS.
WE BELIEVE THAT WE HAVE A COLLECTIVE RESPONSIBILITY TOWARDS ERADICATING THE STIGMA, MISINFORMATION, AND INEQUITIES SURROUNDING THIS PLANT, SO WE CAN UNLOCK ITS TRUE POTENTIAL FOR ALL.

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