Alberta drops legal attempt to stop 4-year-old's use of marijuana treatment

The Alberta government has dropped its attempt to bar an Edmonton-area mother from treating her child's epilepsy with marijuana.

Province had sought court order to force child to go back on prescription drugs

Alberta government drops supervision request for girl being treated with medical marijuana for seizures 2:10

The Alberta government has abruptly dropped its legal attempt to stop an Edmonton-area mother from treating her young daughter's epileptic seizures with marijuana.

"I didn't think they had the proper evidence to fight something that was working," Lita Pawliw told reporters while holding her daughter Natalya, 4, outside the courthouse in Leduc, a bedroom community south of Edmonton.

As first reported by CBC News early Friday, Alberta's Child and Family Services applied to a court for a supervision order that would have essentially taken control of the child's medical treatment.

If the order had been granted, it would have prevented Pawliw from treating her daughter with the marijuana derivative. But it also could have forced the child back onto a regime of powerful prescription medications that Pawliw said didn't work and turned her daughter into a "zombie," who couldn't speak, hear or walk properly.

"I'm hoping that they realized that I was providing Natalya's best interest, that this is the best results that she has had," Pawliw said. "So why put a stop to it?"

Pawliw said the marijuana product, cannabidiol — a pill — had stopped the debilitating seizures Natalya had suffered since age four months. Cannabidiol contains no psychoactive ingredient and produces no psychological effect.

Pawliw and her lawyer, Brian Fish of Edmonton, were prepared to challenge the order but moments before they were to appear before a provincial court judge, a government lawyer summoned them into a meeting room.

Application abandoned

When their turn in court came, the government lawyer, without explanation, told the judge the ministry was dropping its application.

The government had contended Pawliw was putting her child's health at risk because cannabidiol was an unproven alternative treatment. But it is legal and has been dispensed to people licensed by the province to use medicinal marijuana.

Pawliw has applied for a licence for her daughter and expects to receive it soon.

"I hope this fight is over," Pawliw said. "And if not, we will  be back. I will not back down from what my daughter needs, what thrives my daughter and what is giving her life."

In an emailed statement, the press secretary for Irfan Sabir, the minister responsible for Child and Family Services, said the ministry can't comment on specific cases. But she said the Human Services ministry is now working with Alberta Health Services on a protocol for dealing with situations where "family members and the medical team disagree about essential medical treatment and it is felt that formal child intervention may be required." 

Fish told CBC News he assumes government lawyers decided Natalya's cannabidiol use was exempt, even though she did not have a prescription for the drug. Still, he worries that this might not be the last time the government is involved with the case.

"Cases with children are rarely ever over," he said.

Pawliw said her next challenge is to find a doctor willing to prescribe cannabidiol for her daughter.

"No doctor is willing to, or seems to be willing to, sign for a minor," she said. "Everybody takes a look at it like it is wrong and illegal and it's not."




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