Parents continue push to get medicinal cannabis treatment for daughter with epilepsy
'We want our parental rights back, we want the right to make medical decisions for our daughter'
The parents of a 12-year-old girl with severe epilepsy and autism say the Nova Scotia Department of Community Services has laid out several options for the family to deal with the child's medical conditions, but still hasn't agreed give her medicinal cannabis oil at her provincial care home.
Chantelle and Brent Oulton have been fighting for the doctor-prescribed treatment, free of the psychoactive ingredient THC, for their daughter Morgan for months.
Morgan lives at the Yarmouth Association for Community Residental Options (YACRO), and receives around-the-clock care.
"We want our parental rights back, we want the right to make medical decisions for our daughter," Chantelle Oulton told a room full of reporters on Wednesday.
Will care home agree?
The family said one of the options presented to them on Wednesday is that the parents would take back parental rights of their daughter, including all medical decisions. Oulton says under this option they've been told Morgan can continue to live at the care home.
Oulton says they're unsure whether this option means that staff at the Yarmouth Association for Community Residential Options (YACRO) could administer the cannabis and whether they would agree to do so. Oulton also wonders if this option means the family would need to do so at home.
The mother said she harbours suspicions about the option offered by the department, as YACRO staff are employed by the province.
"Have Community Services and YACRO already discussed this and they already know that YACRO will say no anyway? Therefore we're really not being given options. That may or may not be the case. Until we talk to YACRO, we won't be able to make an informed decision," she said.
The Oultons were joined Wednesday by Brenda Hardiman, chair of Advocating Parents of Nova Scotia, who questioned how the government could "trump a neurologist's recommendation."
Traditional drugs didn't work
The Oultons want to try medicinal cannabis for Morgan because they tried 17 different pharmaceutical drugs for their daughter and none worked.
The cannabis oil would be given to their daughter in the form of drops on her tongue while being monitored by physicians and staff.
"One of the arguments we have heard is well how does [medicinal cannibis] affect the developing brain?" said Chantelle Oulton.
"Our child's brain did not develop properly in utero to begin with. She has multiple brain abnormalities. There is nothing we're going to give her that's going to harm her further than what she's already had."
Wendy Bungay, the director of child protection with the Department of Community Services, said she could not comment on the Oultons's case specifically, but the province does look carefully at what interventions are used.
"When a request for a particular intervention is made for a child in care, we need to very carefully evaluate the purpose of that intervention and what the experts would say in terms of whether that's the appropriate intervention for that particular child's needs," said Bungay.
In the past, the province said experts in the medical field have advised against medical marijuana for people under the age of 18.
"For those requests that may be more experimental in nature, we need to really look at what medical professionals are saying and we want to come from a point of first doing no harm," said Bungay.
Family keen to try medicinal cannabis
The Oultons said they're keen for their daughter to receive medicinal cannabis because of their research into the success other families experienced with it.
"Ultimately what we would like to see is her have the same level of care that she's getting through Community Services right now, as far as financially the services they provide, while still retaining our parental rights," said Chantelle Oulton.
The family has legal counsel and is waiting to speak with staff at YACRO before they make any decisions. The other options for the parents include taking their daughter out of care or for the parents to designate someone at the small-options home to make medical decisions for their daughter.
- A previous version of this story said the Department of Community Services had given the green light for Morgan Oulton to take medicinal cannabis at her provincial care home. In fact, Chantelle Oulton says the province has not agreed to give her daughter medicinal cannabis oil at her care home.Jun 16, 2016 5:12 PM AT
With files from Sabrina Fabian