Health

Alfie Dingley's medical cannabis petition handed to government

Alfie Dingley and his mother Image copyright PA
Image caption Alfie's mother Hannah Deacon has appealed to the government to act

A six-year-old boy with epilepsy has presented a petition to No 10 calling for him to be granted a special licence to use medical cannabis.

Alfie Dingley has a very rare form of the illness that causes up to 150 seizures per month.

His parents want the government to let him use cannabis oil - which is banned in the UK - to help with his symptoms.

Earlier this month, ministers said they were "exploring every option" after meeting with the family.

Alfie and his mother, from Kenilworth in Warwickshire, presented the petition, which has more than 370,000 signatures, to the government.

His family said thousands of Alfie's supporters had written to their local MPs urging them to meet the family.

'Time for compassion'

Cannabis oil is available for medical purposes in the Netherlands.

Alfie's family have previously travelled there to get him cannabis-based treatment and said the results were "dramatic" - reducing his seizures in a month to only one that was less severe.

His mother, Hannah Deacon, said: "This isn't a time for bureaucracy - this is a time for compassion.

"I don't want to break the law by going to Holland and bringing his medical cannabis into the UK illegally. And why should I have to do that?"

Image copyright PA
Image caption Alfie Dingley and his family have paid for treatment in the Netherlands

The petition comes after former justice minister Mike Penning urged the Home Office to grant the licence "immediately".

He said although there was substantial evidence that cannabis was a harmful drug, "surely in the 21st Century we can find an acceptable way to separate the two, so that patients who gain relief from the use of the drug are legally and safely able to do so".

Earlier this month, the Home Office said it was considering allowing a medical cannabis trial to treat Alfie. However, it has stressed that "no decisions have been made".

On Tuesday, Policing Minister Nick Hurd said he was "hugely sympathetic" to the situation facing Alfie and his family and was "determined to explore every option".

"As we have consistently said, any proposal would need to be led by senior clinicians using sufficient evidence."

The department had previously turned down requests by the family to legally take the drug, saying that cannabis cannot be practically prescribed, administered or supplied to the public and can only be used for research under a licence.

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