Right-to-die campaigner calls for legalisation of medical cannabis

Tom Curran says drug helped keep his wife alive as she suffered from multiple sclerosis

Right-to-die campaigner Tom Curran has called on the Government to legalise the use of cannabis for medical purposes.

Mr Curran said only two things kept his wife, Marie Fleming, alive in her final years as she suffered from a progressive form of multiple sclerosis and both were illegal.

The first was the prospect that her suffering would be ended by assisted suicide, while the second was the use of cannabis, which Mr Curran grew himself at home.

Ms Fleming died of natural causes in December 2013, having failed in her Supreme Court bid to allow her husband help her to undergo assisted suicide at a clinic in Switzerland.


Mr Curran made the comments at the Global Medical Cannabis summit in Dublin, at which he also called on Irish doctors to become advocates for the use of medical cannabis.

He said he did not go public on his wife’s cannabis use while she was alive, not out of fear of being jailed, but because of the fear that the drug would be taken away.

He said all the regular drugs prescribed for his wife had not worked and the only thing that allowed her some relief was medicinal cannabis.

She had been in constant neurological pain but He said that within 20 seconds of smoking cannabis, her constant neurological pain subsided and her body relaxed completely.

“Since she passed away I have been telling everybody about the value that cannabis was for life,” he said.

“There is plenty of evidence around the world that cannabis works as a medicine.

“It is used as a medicine in many countries and we need to make the medical profession aware of that. We’re here to give people like Marie her life back.”

Mr Curran stressed he was not advocating for the legalisation of cannabis for recreational purposes.

He told the international audience at the summit that the Irish Government was in a state of turmoil and unable to make difficult decisions.

Instead, the impetus to advocate for change must rest with doctors.

Dravet Syndrome

A mother of a six-year-old daughter who has a severe form of epilepsy told the conference she could not persuade any neurologist to prescribe cannabis as a medicine for her daughter.

Ava Barry, from Aghabullogue, Co Cork, has Dravet Syndrome, which means she has 20 seizures a day.

Her mother Vera Twomey said her daughter is on 11 forms of pharmaceutical medicine.

She had been told of a child with a similar condition who went from 18 seizures a day to three a month after taking a form of medicinal cannabis.

Ms Twomey said no neurologist would prescribe cannabis administered under the tongue for her daughter because of the absence of clinical trials on the treatment.

The conference was organised by the Irish branch of Help Not Harm, the international campaign for the prescription of medicinal cannabis.

Executive director Graham de Barra said half of all US states, Canada and 10 European countries have legalised cannabis for medicinal use, yet it remains an illegal substance even for medicinal purposes in Ireland.

The use of medicinal cannabis would be for cancers, spasticity diseases and neurological conditions such as Motor Neurone Disease (MND) and multiple sclerosis, he said.

“We are not talking about recreational use.

“We are talking about a pharmaceutical approach, ensuring quality standards of medicine to be prescribed by a GP who has a long-lasting relationship with his patients.”

Ronan McGreevy

Ronan McGreevy

Ronan McGreevy is a news reporter with The Irish Times