Alan Flashman
Alan Flashman

Drugged Infant or Media Misinformation?

Mainsteam Israeli press managed to eke out someting yellow: a father “kidnappped” his infant child from a hospital and then “drugged” him!

The real story appears in the “Cannabis” Magazine and was shared in the Rotter site. Since I know some of the folks involved and am myself a pediatrician and child psychiatrist, I would like to comment on the outrageous incident and its even more outrageous “coverage.”

The story itself is one of the widening gap between academic tertiary medicine and a parent’s right to choose treatment for his/her child. The infant suffered from intractable seizures. This is a parental and a medical nightmare. But not a shared nightmare. Physicians will focus on medications, knowing full wel that the efficacy of medications is limited and that some medications come with substantial risks. And also knowing that in order to provide care, there will be an endless train of blood tests and other procedures.

Parents of children in such a desparate and shocking situation require emotional care no less intensive than the infant’s medical care. Parents need to feel a full partnership with their child’s physicians, and this requires time and patience to explain complex and urgent decisoins. This second part of the treatment plan apparently broke down, leading the father to “kidnap” his son in order to bring him to another facility – on his motorized bicycle! Such an extreme act on the part of the father raises important questions about health care in Israel in 2021. Could not a transfer of facilities be arranged between physicians in recognition of the failure to create partnership with this father? Is a parent bound to treatment in one facility when he feels dissatisfied? Do parents of very ill children relinquish parental authority de facto to medical institutions? When the incident is investigated (science fiction – I doubt it will ever happen), what will the first intitution learn about its communications with parents?

The child was indeed admitted and treated at the second facility (both are leading tertiary academic bastions). Here the plots begins to stink. Father was aware (it is 2021!) that a cannabis derivative called CBD is both entirely benign and often surprisingly effective in epilepsy. He got the facility to request “epidiolex”- an extremely expensive product for which there is no reason to assume that it is better than just full sprectrum CBD from the plant. Except that it is approved by the FDA and permitted in Israel. Apparently the Sick Fund denied its use for financial reasons. The child was not responding to treatment, and the father was in emotional agony over the plight of his child. He made contact with an Israeli who helps acquire CBD oils from abroad – despite their absurd and outlying status as illegal in what pretends to be a technologically advanced “start-up nation”. The father could not tell the doctors, who could not be approached. The father administered a drop to the baby and the seizures stopped -we few physicians who allow themselves experience with CBD will not be surprised. A blood test showed CBD and the father was – arrested! In Israel! For saving his baby with a substance that is legal and OTC in virtually the entire planet! Fortunately the judge was better informed than the doctors, police or media, and father was released from arrest.

In Israel in 2021 a patient cannot discuss cannabis of any sort with practically any institutional doctor. They all line up with the slogan “not yet evidenced based” even in the face of clear evidence that a situation has no other reliable treatment. Were we not sworn never to deny a patient a substance that could relieve suffering and worth the risk? Were we sworn to loyalty to a Big Pharma based market of substances and control of the “evidence based” research? Were we sworn to support a Health Ministry whose management of medical cannabis tortures thousand of pateints without any evidential basis? Or put it this way: Ignorance of the law is no excuse. Is ignorance of a burgeoning experience with cannabis in areas like autism, PTSD and epilepsy where the record of “conventional” medicine is well known to be limited to say the least – is such ignorance not a form of malpractice?  What permits a physician to deny CBD to a seizing infant? What permits a state to arrest a parent for doing something well within reason to save his child?

This brings us to the way the incident was reported. The father “drugged” his child! Where is the media that could report that a father had to resort to giving CBD himself because of the blindness and intractibility of the medical establishment? Where is the media that could recount  this extreme story from the vantage point of the father? And the needs of the child? Where is the media that could explain that the intransigence of the Health Ministry that in its outrageous management of CBD  puts in jeopardy the health and well-being of thousands of children and their families? Where in short is the media who could at least even-handedly report this story as one that teaches a lesson and asks a significant question?

Putting together the story and the media report suggests that Israel has strayed far from its stated goal of democracy and its basic laws of freedom and dignity. It is high time to correct this deviation. Cannabis is but one area where our new goverment would do well to act swiftly.

About the Author
Alan Flashman was born in Foxborough, MA, and gained his BA from Columbia, MD from NYU, Pediatrics, Adult and Child Psychiatry specialties at Albert Einstein College of Medicine, The Bronx, NY. He has practiced in Beer Sheba since 1983, and taught mental health at Hebrew University, Tel Aviv University and Ben Gurion University. Alan has edited readers on Therapeutic Communication with Children (2002) and Adolescents (2005) in Hebrew, translated Buber's I and Thou anew into Hebrew, and authored Losing It, an autobiography, and From Protection to Passover.
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