The Home Office have offered a lifeline to the family of a boy with a rare severe form of epilepsy which is relieved with cannabis medication at present illegal in the UK.
After MPs from all parties called for six-year-old Alfie Dingley from Warwickshire to be allowed to take the medicinal cannabis that eased his severe epileptic fits when the family went to Holland, Home Office Minister Nick Hurd promised to visit the family this week.
The Minister had faced calls from MPs to help parents Hannah Deacon and Drew Dingley, who asked to be able to legally treat their son with the drug, illegal in the UK, but which reduced the severity and frequency of Alfie’s fits from weekly to once a month.
On some days Alfie could suffer up to 30 seizures in one day, and he is said to face psychosis and a curtailed lifespan if relying on the steroid-based treatment he received before travelling to the Netherlands.
Last week Nick Hurd refused calls from MPs to allow the family to treat their son with a drug that had proven to help him. And Labour MP Paul Flynn’s Private Member’s Bill to pave the way for decriminalising medicinal cannabis was talked out last Friday so MPs were denied the chance for a free vote on it.
But reports are emerging that the Home Office is set to consider allowing a medical cannabis trial to treat the six-year-old in this high-profile case.
Despite having previously turned the family down, the BBC reports that the Home Office is “exploring every option”, following Nick Hurd’s meeting with Alfie’s parents on Monday.
And that though “no decisions have been made”, this includes a three-month trial, led by Alfie’s doctors, based on “sufficient and rigorous evidence”.
Alfie’s mother Hannah Deacon told The London Economic, “we are delighted at the sincere offer that has been made by the Home Office and we hope we can make it work quickly so we can keep Alfie safe and he can access the medication he needs as urgently as possible.”
Speaking in the House of Lords last week, Health minister Baroness Williams had hinted that some exception to UK laws might be made, saying “every option is being considered” by ministers.
She said there was “huge amount of sympathy” for Alfie and his family and that the policing minister and home secretary “want to explore every option within the current regulatory framework including issuing a licence”, under section 30 of the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971.
A Home Office spokesperson said: “The Government has a huge amount of sympathy for the rare and difficult situation that Alfie and his family are faced with.
“The Policing Minister wants to explore every option and has met with Alfie’s family to discuss treatments that may be accessible for him.
“No decisions have been made and any proposal would need to be led by senior clinicians using sufficient and rigorous evidence.”
Alfie’s mother Hannah Deacon praised the “sincere offer because they want to help us”.
A three-month trial would end around the time that MP Paul Flynn’s private member’s bill to legalise medical use returns to the House of Commons on July 6.