N.S. family pleads with government to let daughter use medical marijuana
The parents of a 12-year-old girl diagnosed with severe epilepsy say they have exhausted their treatment options, and are asking the province to allow her to use medical marijuana.
Brent and Chantelle Oulton’s daughter, Morgan, was born with multiple brain abnormalities and was diagnosed with cognitive impairment and autism. She also suffers from severe epilepsy.
Morgan has been on a variety of medications with little success. Her parents say some of the prescribed drugs have also had adverse side effects, actually contributing to Morgan’s seizures instead of relieving them.
“It’s tough to have her say, ‘Why is this happening to me?’ and not being able to answer,” said her father, Brent Oulton.
“All you can do is hold her and hope it will hurry up and pass,” said Chantelle. “And with her in care, you can't even do that.”
Last September, the Oulton’s placed Morgan in a provincial care home in Yarmouth, N.S., after realizing they could no longer provide the care she needs. In Nova Scotia, this means they entered into a voluntary care agreement that signs over custody of their child to the Department of Community Services.
At the care facility, Morgan receives around-the-clock support, but can’t get the one medication her parents say may actually work.
“It seems the attention here is put on the fact that it's cannabis, a controversial treatment, but it is a prescribed treatment like any of the other 17 medications she's been on,” said Chantelle.
Morgan was prescribed cannabis oil by a pediatric neurologist at the IWK, but has not been able to start treatment because she is in the care of the province. As long as she remains under provincial care, the government has control over her treatments.
“If you look at something like medical marijuana, what we've been informed by medical experts is that it's contraindicative for children under the age of 18,” said a spokesperson for the Department of Community Services.
However, the Oulton’s are pleading with the government to give Morgan the opportunity to try the drug.
They’re also getting some support from Advocating Parents of Nova Scotia, who say the law should be changed to allow parents a greater say in the treatment of their children.
“The Department of Community Services needs to take a more relaxed approach,” said APNS president Brenda Hardiman. “This is a last option. All other options have been exhausted.”
On Wednesday, the Department of Community Services gave the Oulton’s three options. Give complete medical consent to the small options home, return legal custody to the Oulton’s, but medical treatment would have to be agreed upon by the home, or terminate provincial care services and bring Morgan home.
The Oulton’s say none of these options are workable. The second option, which seems favourable at first glance, means the Oulton’s would also be responsible for covering their daughter’s full medical expenses, which can run thousands of dollars per month.
“Ultimately, we hope we find something that helps her enough to come back home, and our family can be together again.”
Until then, the family says they will continue to call for the change they hope will transform their daughter’s life.
With files from CTV Atlantic’s Caitlin Andrea.