Doctors at a Queensland’s children’s hospital are allegedly “turning a blind eye” to parents administering illegal medicinal cannabis to their children.
The ABC obtained a recording of a conversation in which Brisbane father Steve Peek tells a doctor he will be administering the drug while his daughter is in the Lady Cilento Children’s Hospital.
The state’s peak doctors group says it is an indication of the huge amount of pressure clinicians face.
Mr Peek had been giving his daughter Suli unregulated medicinal cannabis for more than a year when she was admitted to the Lady Cilento in June 2016 with a virus.
On June 26, 2016, she underwent a test at the hospital that recorded her brain functions as well as nearby conversations.
Mr Peek has obtained that recording under Right to Information, in which he asks: “It’s alright to continue with you?”
The doctor replies: “My answer is ‘don’t ask me’, rightio? Because I estimate I will run into all sorts of problems and the answer will be no. I can tell you that already now … so legally I didn’t know.”
The doctor is then heard to question how the illegal dose would be written down on the patient’s chart.
“Normally we would chart what anyone else gives, but in this case I can’t chart it because if I chart it I’ll run into legal trouble,” the clinician says.
To me it’s fine as long as you get the dosing right and so on, that’s OK. That to me is really not a big deal. If it’s important to you and you think there’s a benefit then you should continue.
“So that to me is not a problem, as long as I don’t know about it, the nurses don’t know about it, completely fine. And that’s our way of trying to get around the legal framework.”
Mr Peek replies: “As I said to them this morning … I’m quite happy if you just turn a blind eye.”
To which the doctor says: “My personal opinion is that I would even support it, it’s not that I’m medically against it. I know that there is some patients that benefit from it personally my experience with it, I don’t have any because I haven’t been trained.”
Mr Peek said the recording was made while Suli was undergoing a test in the hospital. He obtained it under Right to Information.
The Federal Government has approved the sale of medicinal marijuana. But it still won’t be easy for people to get a prescription.
Suli Peek died in October last year.
Children’s Health Queensland (CHQ) would not comment on Suli’s case as it is being reviewed by the coroner. But in a statement, CHQ said it did not support the use of illegal cannabis.
Senior staff knew, father says
Suli had a complex neurological disorder and suffered severe seizures, sometimes up to 200 a day.
The family turned to medicinal cannabis after traditional medication not only failed but caused horrific side effects. Her father said Suli’s seizures dropped by 90 per cent and they weaned her off the epilepsy medication.
Two days after the conversation with the specialist, Mr Peek had a meeting with senior staff and Carol Ireland from Epilepsy Action Australia.
“I said ‘I’m not going to stop, I can’t stop and I won’t stop giving it to her in the hospital’,” he said.
“They said: ‘We can’t condone or approve of cannabis in the hospital … what we’ll do is as soon as possible we’ll get you out of hospital with hospital in the home’.
“They put us in a room on our own. And we continued giving her the cannabis oil. They knew. And look I’m grateful for that.”
Ms Ireland has backed Mr Peek’s recollection of the meeting.
“At no stage did they say to him ‘Don’t give it to her or we’ll call the police,'” she said.
Three weeks later, Suli was back in hospital with respiratory problems.
This time, Mr Peek said, a nurse saw him give the cannabis oil to Suli and called a doctor.
They refused to let Suli have the oil, threatened to call the police and have him removed from the hospital.
“[Medicinal cannabis] was giving her the only chance of a quality of life that she had,” Mr Peek said.
Doctors in the middle
Australian Medical Association Queensland vice-president Jim Finn said specialists were under huge pressures.
“Particularly in the instance of very ill patients, specialists are under a huge amount of pressure for the wellbeing of those patients and they can be under a huge amount of emotional pressure from the patient’s family,” he said.
“It’s a very hard job that they do.”
He said because cannabis was banned in Australia, medical trials were 50–60 years behind where they should be.