Michael Fabricant raised the case of his Burntwood constituent Vicky Clarke who is suffering from advanced multiple sclerosis and needs cannabis to help relieve her acute and stabbing pain. No other treatment works.
Michael says “This is a tragic case. Vicky is currently receiving pain management at St Giles Hospice in Whittington near Lichfield. They are doing their best for her but she remains in terrible pain and is denied cannabis under the present law.”
In Parliament on Tuesday 20th February, Michael Fabricant raised the matter with Home Office Minister Nick Hurd:-
“As the hon. Member for Newport West (Paul Flynn) said, it is not just Alfie; thousands of people have such conditions. I have a constituent, Vicky Clarke—now just 5 stone in weight—in St Giles hospice in my constituency, suffering from the very final stages of multiple sclerosis. Her husband has found that the only drug that alleviated her pain was cannabis, and he has twice been investigated by the police. We are not talking about the general administration of cannabis; we are talking about the medical prescription of cannabis. If a doctor says that cannabis is the only cure or a medical professional says that it is the only way to alleviate pain, surely they should be legally allowed to prescribe that drug?”
Nick Hurd replied: “Well, they still have to operate within the law. The law does permit the development, licensing and marketing of medicines, including those containing controlled drugs, such as cannabis. I have used the example of Sativex, which I believe provides relief to patients with MS. My hon. Friend talks about lots of other cases like this one. It is worth noting, however, that in the case of Alfie Dingley, I think only nine other children in the world suffer from the same type of epilepsy as he does. That is why I have undertaken to explore every option on his behalf. I make it quite clear that the Home Office and the Government are keeping this area under review, because this is fast moving.”
Michael Fabricant now says “I am not wholly satisfied with that answer. Twelve, soon to be 15, countries in the European Union and 29 states of the United States, and the District of Columbia, have all found ways to license the medicinal use of cannabis. The Republic of Ireland, which, with a legal framework very similar to our own, gave its Health Minister the explicit power to license use of cannabis as a medicine. It is time we do the same here without any further prevarication.”
In a moving blog post, Andy Clarke, Vicky’s husband, has written about his experience trying to look after his wife. He says:-
We are a regular family who has been virtually decimated by MS.
My wife (Vicky) was a very respected primary teacher, teaching in a challenging school in Walsall when she was diagnosed with Primary Progressive MS in her mid-30s, a little over 10yrs ago.
We have two daughters: Sophie is studying for a nursing degree in children’s nursing, and Megan is studying on a BTEC course with a view to a career in the police force.
Within 3-4 years of diagnosis, Vicky was forced to give up the career she loved despite every effort made by all parties, measures which included Vicky being lifted from a taxi (access to work scheme) onto her mobility scooter to continue her work.
Since the early days of diagnosis, Vicky has suffered daily with severe stabbing nerve pain in her left shoulder. She has tried every drug there is acupuncture, electro-acupuncture, nerve injections, chili patches and so on and so on; literally, everything the NHS and private clinics have to offer.
Fast forward to where cannabis comes in. Vicky has very little function, is doubly incontinent and has carers come in whilst I work Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday. I take over at all other times.
It is important to bring the carers into the story because this is where our first brush with the law comes in regarding cannabis.
I had been trying to grow some cannabis in a spare upstairs bedroom, not very successfully I might add.
One of the carers or care agency reported a smell of cannabis coming from upstairs. This was frustrating on two points: one because upstairs is out of bounds, as we live on the ground floor adapted for Vicky. The second is there would have been very little smell due to very little growth and was more than likely found by snooping around. I said two points, in actual fact, it’s three: the carers see Vicky cry in pain on a daily basis.
The resulting action was a visit from the local police and a stern warning with the instruction not to do it again. The WPC was quite understanding and could see what it was being used for, but said the police had to act as the call had come in from an agency with the additional fact of a minor living in the house.
So that was our first brush with being labelled criminals and our chances of experimenting with cannabis as a pain reliever gone for a while.
The second time (about 7 months after the first) was also as a result of the care agency reporting cannabis to the police, again to the backdrop of Vicky crying in pain.
I had managed to find a more reliable source of cannabis than trying to grow my own. I made the cannabis into butter and was putting this into a healthy smoothie on a daily basis; having been in a precision engineering role since leaving school this process was also carried out to precision.
Absolute success, I would come home from work to find a smiling Vicky who had been pain-free. Sadly she would still have the same stabbing pain at night and this is something we were unable to get on top of as our experimenting was cut short by the involvement of the police once again.
The second reporting also resulted in another reluctant visit from the police but had the extra worry of a safeguarding visit from Social Services for Vicky, followed by an even more worrying visit regarding the safeguarding of Megan.
As the law stands, if I get caught again I run the risk of further action being taken and risk either Vicky or Megan being taken into care. This would also jeopardise Megan’s chances of joining the police and could ruin my daughter’s dream.
So after 10 years of daily pain, it was being relieved a by a small amount of cannabis in a smoothie. Not enough to be stoned, nor in my opinion enough to suspect, other than what must have been a slight smell in the smoothie. Vicky is now back to crying in pain on a daily basis.
Vicky is now PEG fed, nil-by-mouth and is confined to bed suffering from a severe pressure sore and awaiting a bed at the local hospice to try again to address pain.
At a little over 5 stone and suffering severe pain and many other complications due to PPMS, I ask anyone why they would want to deny a responsible adult access to a plant that was clearly helping?
The only hope we have is for the Elizabeth Brice Bill to be passed which has its second reading on 23rd February. Our MP, Michael Fabricant, has campaigned for this on our behalf.